20 Things You Didn’t Know About Therapy Cats

In this stressful and busy world that we live in, the need for counselors has risen dramatically. It’s a profession that will always be in demand, but it’s possible that some of them will be displaced by the four legged furry kind. We’ve all heard of the use of dogs for therapy pets, but did you know that cats also make wonderful therapy pets? While some may find this unbelievable, it’s absolutely true. Cats are known for their calming effect. Felines are becoming more widely used as therapy pets to help out in a variety of different situations. Cats are small and versatile animals who are just beginning to make their entrance into the formal helping profession. Here are 20 things that you didn’t know about therapy cats.

Therapy cats can ease loneliness

People who live alone may go for long periods without having a meaningful interaction with another person. A well-trained therapy cat offers attention and companionship to help ease feelings of loneliness. Cats tend to have big personalities although they are small animals. They enjoy being stroked and petted and they will give the attention right back. Some cat breeds are more vocal than others, and they love to carry on conversations, responding to everything that is said to them with a meow. Some cats that are not even officially certified as therapy cats offer companionship for people who are lonely. While some breeds tend to be more aloof, others crave interaction with their masters.

Therapy cats are used for children with autism

Children with autism and other developmental disorders may benefit from therapy cats. The cats help them to become more comfortable with their surroundings and they give the children a pleasant focal point for holding attention. Therapy cats are used to visit children’s hospitals, schools, and hearing and speech centers to help assist with children who are having trouble in the environment. Acting as a bridge that connects a child who is struggling internally, with the outside world, can open them up for a more positive and effective response to the therapy or treatments that that they are receiving. A cat can make a world of difference in the life of a suffering child.

Cat-love therapy is a real thing

Children who have experienced trauma, may have formed a disconnect with the outside world. Therapy cats can help them to feel comfortable in venturing out of the world that they have retreated into. Loving cats who are trained to show these children attention and affection have a way of presenting a non-threatening form of contact to help them learn that it is safe to reach out and connect, if not yet with humans, at least with the cat. They offer an excellent tool for bridging the gap between reallity and make believe.

Therapy cats are used to lower high blood pressure

Since recent studies have shown that cats have a positive affect on blood pressure levels, more people are getting them. There is an entire system of touch that leads to relaxation and decreasing blood pressure. The clinical studies are proof that therapy cats are good for you and although they are not a cure for this medical condition, they are known to lower blood pressure as a benefit.

Therapy cats help with social bonding in people

This is a major function of therapy cats. When a cat shows you love and affection, it creates an “awww” response. Unconditional love makes us feel better on many levels. For whatever reason, some people have a lot of trouble bonding with other people. They may not have developed the social skills early on in their lives, or perhaps a tragedy has caused them to become withdrawn, and reclusive. People and cats communicate and words are a part of the process. It’s hard not to talk to an affectionate cat. They have a way of drawing us out and forcing us to be social, even when that isn’t what we had planned to do. It is a natural response.

Therapy cats ease anxiety

People who are anxious and prone to panic attacks benefit from therapy cats. These wonderful furry creatures live their lives very simply and they’re a good example for learning to let go of the small stuff and kicking back for some rest and relaxation. These cats offer a distraction from troubles, if even just for a few moments at a time. Every break from the tension helps the body to slow down on the production of the chemicals that cause the stress response. There is something about a purring cat that has a lulling effect and brings about a feeling of relaxation.

Therapy cats  are good for people who are hospitalized

It’s a proven scientific fact that pet therapy is beneficial for adults who are hospitalized. After spending time with a therapy cat, some patients feel more energetic, their pain levels go down, their breathing improves and they are in a much better mood. The same rule applies for persons who are institutionalized in nursing homes and assisted living centers as well. Cats are familiar creatures for most people and they give love freely to people who are in need of a personal touch, or perhaps have been away from their own pets for an extended period of time.

Therapy cats help children with illnesses

Children who must undergo unpleasant medical treatments may have trouble adjusting to the therapy processes. Again, studies show that pet therapy is effective in helping these kids to be in a better mood and to adapt to the processes more easily. Therapy cats are a very useful distraction from things that are unpleasant. They take a child’s mind off of what they’re going through for a brief period of time, and offer a respite from fear or uncertainty. This helps to increase the coping skills of the child as well.

Therapy cats reduce fear

There are times in life when we are afraid. Whether it’s a child or adult going in for a simple medical procedure or something far more daunting, we get stressed out and fearful. Therapy cats can take our minds off of the fear of the unknown as well as the fear of what we know is coming, by offering a very pleasant distraction. It is during this time that we are able to calm down and regroup. When a person is allowed a reprieve from the thoughts that are causing the distress, the body normalizes for a few moments. There is a slowing of the heartbeat, lowering of the blood pressure and less anxiousness. Mood even improves so the cycle of fear is broken for the amount of time that the person is distracted.

Therapy cats boost your morale

People who have been through a lot can become depressed and sad. Those who have survived horrific events of nature, earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, flooding, house fires, automobile accidents and other traumatic situations tend to feel low after the shock passes and reality begins to set in. Loss can lower morale and your outlook on life. Therapy cats have a way of drawing your attention to the things that still matter. These are love, companionship and taking time out to count the blessings that still remain. They truly are noble creatures and they show us that there are still good things left in life if we just look for them.

Not all cats make good therapy cats

Not just any cat can be used as a therapy cat, although some may disagree. Those that are wild and obnoxious would only serve to cause more stress for the person that they are supposed to be helping. Cats that lack confidence are also out of the running. If a cat has low confidence, it is far more likely to be afraid of new people and this cat may end up biting, scratching or running away. Imagine how this would make a person with low self-esteem feel? If a cat has the tendencies towards a mean nature or a grumpy disposition, they are not the material that can be used for a good therapy cat. Cats that don’t like to be picked up, or who are extremely aloof are not great candidates either. It may sound picky, but forcing a cat that doesn’t have the temperament for this type of work could result in disaster for the cat as well as the clients. While an ornery cat may be therapeutic for an owner that they love and trust, this is the only exception and they would not qualify for certification.

There are lots of kinds of cat therapies

Therapy cats don’t do just one kind of thing. There are a few different ways that they are used to help people. They may be used in visits that are a part of a formal intervention program, including rehabilitation services, psychiatric interventions, medical interventions and behavioral therapy. They are also used for more informal settings including a visit to a person’s home or place of residence. There are three levels of therapy interaction which include”

  • Active interaction- The therapy cat engages with the person by going for a walk, playing or cuddling. In the case of a hospital or other institutional setting, walks around the hallways can usually be arranged for in advance. The level of play may include the patient playing a game of fetch with the kitty or using a pull-toy to get the cat to chase it.
  • Low Interaction – The therapy cat performs tricks for the patient/client with Low interaction activities, the therapy cat is the one doing the work while the patient is an onlooker.
  • Passive interaction – The therapy cat is near the person and either sleeps with or sits by them without engaging in higher levels of engagement. Sometiemes, it’s just enough to have a cat nearby. There is no set amount of time that a therapy cat should spend with a person, nor a certain number of visits that are required. The length of time spent, frequency and level of activity really all depends on the needs of the person that the therapy cat is visiting. There is no set formula. It’s on a case by case basis.

People who own therapy cats can help others

You may want to have your cat trained and certified as a therapy pet. Perhaps you don’t currently own a cat and want to adopt a therapy cat, which is great. Therapy cat’s are not required to go out and serve the public. They can be for just one person. If you do own a therapy cat, then you are a fortunate person who can also allow your cat to help others who could benefit from his services. If you have a friend or loved one who is lonely or has some other condition that is an issue, your therapy cat may be able to make a difference in their lives as well as yours. If this is your goal, then you’ll want to be certified right along with your cat, so you will know how to best help the people your cat is working with, and so you can protect him from any potential threats or harm. There are some instances where the patient who needs the therapy cannot be trusted to be alone or too close to the therapy cat for one reason or another. Loving owners would never put their therapy cat at risk for harm.

Therapy cats are working cats

All certified therapy cats have gone through a process of training. They are considered to be in the working cat class. After receiving thorough training for helping people with physical, emotional or mental issues, they deserve to be regarded for their extensive knowledge and skill base. They are versatile in the kinds of help that they can provide for people from all walks of life.

Therapy cats are good for elderly couples

It doesn’t really matter if the couple is at home in the house that they’ve lived in for fifty years, in an assisted living center or in a nursing/rehabilitation facility, therapy cats are good for giving them a boost. Even if a person suffers from Alzheimer’s or other degenerative conditions, therapy cats can help some of these people to experience a recall of pleasant memories.

Therapy cats help prisoners

Therapy cats have a lot to offer inmates who have had their freedom taken away. They offer comfort and a period of distraction from their situations. Some prisons are currently using therapy cats as a part of assistance programs for their inmates who are struggling.

There are programs for training and certification of therapy cats

If you’re just learning about therapy cats and have an interest in finding out more, there are several organizations out there that offer training and certification programs for therapy cats. One of them is called “Pet Partners,” and another good organization is “Love on a Leash.” There are many other agencies that offer these services. If you can’t find any locally, consult with your local humane society. You may also find more information for your area on the internet.

Both you and your cat can become certified

This isn’t just a cool thing to do, getting certified along with your cat is a requirement. The two of you become a “cat-therapy” team. This is a wonderful way for you and your pet to bond with one another, and then to share the special love that you have with others who are in need of the services that you can offer them. Being certified as a team, you will be there to oversee how well the patients/clients and your therapy cat interact with one another. This will help to prevent any accidents or harm to either your cat or the client. You will be in a position to offer your services to a multitude of worthy causes to help people who are in need.

There are requirements for therapy cats

It’s great that you want to form a therapy cat team with your kitty, but there are some fairly stringent requirements that you both must first meet. The training and certifying organization will give you a questionnaire to fill out. You must answer all questions to the best of your knowledge. Some of the basic requirements are that your cat must be at least 12 months of age, and he must have been living with you for the past six months or more. In order to qualify your cat should show absolutely no aggression towards people, or towards other animals. These are the questions and requirements that you would expect to see on the form, but there are more. Some programs may have slightly different requirements than others, but most will disqualify cats who eat diets or raw protein, and those who will not wear a harness and a leash. These are necessary for ensuring that the cat is kept safe from harm more than anything else. When the questionnaire is completed, you’ll be told whether or not your cat qualifies for the certification. If it gets the green light, then your cat or you and your cat work with a professional trainer. After training is completed, you submit the information to the organization and pay the required fee. When this is done, both you and the cat are evaluated by an expert in the field, and if you pass the inspection, you’re both certified.

Cats that make good therapy cats

If you own a cat and you’re wondering if he or she may be a good candidate for the program, here are a few tips that may help you to decide. There is no certain breed, size or color that makes the best therapy cat, but rather, the temperament. The best therapy cats are calm and friendly. They do not liek to participate in rowdy play that includes biting or scratching. They are sweet and good natured as well as patient and kind. Good therapy cats don’t mind being picked up or petted. They are fully house-trained and won’t toilet indoors, except in their litter box. They don’t fight with other animals and they are fearless. Ideally, the cat will be outgoing, affectionate and will enjoy the company of humans.

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