On Monday, we introduced you to some very special therapy cats who share their gift of purring with nursing home and other facility residents. Today, we’re looking at what it takes for a cat to be able to do this kind of work.
If your cat is a mellow, laid back lap cat, she may just be the purr-fect candidate to be a therapy cat.
Therapy cats need to be gentle and calm. They have to be open to new experiences. Socialization to people of all genders, ages and ethnic backgrounds is important. Therapy cats have to be able to tolerate strange noises, smells and sights. They need to be comfortable with being handled and held by a variety of people. They are required to be in good health and current on their vaccinations. Good grooming and short nails are a must. Cats need to be leash trained so that their handler can keep control of them at all times.
There are several organizations that provide training, evaluation and certification for cats and their guardians. Programs usually begin with an evaluation to determine whether a cat is a suitable candidate. Depending on the organization, the next step may be a formal training program and/or certification process, or a supervised onsite evaluation at the facility where the cat will be visiting.
The length of the training and certification process varies, and mostly depends on the cat’s personality and previous socialization.
The following organizations provide evaluation, training and certification for therapy cats:
Pet Partners (formerly Delta Society) is the only national organization to register therapy animals. They provide evaluation, workshops and ongoing volunteer support throughout the United States. Visit http://www.petpartners.org for more information.
Love on a Leash (The Foundation for Pet-Provided Therapy) provides training, evaluation and certification procedures for therapy pets and their owners through a number of chapters in the United States. Visit http://www.loveonaleash.org for more information.
There are many local organizations that will provide therapy cat certification. They can be found through local humane societies or the area agencies on aging.
Photo of therapy cat Flash by Jaetta Hall. This article was first published in the February 2013 issue of Cat Fancy Magazine.