Could Your Cat Be a Therapy Cat?

therapy_cat

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.

10 Comments on Could Your Cat Be a Therapy Cat?

  1. Andrea
    August 26, 2013 at 11:23 pm (6 years ago)

    Among Mewdy Blue’s many talents he was also a Therapy Cat. I took him and Lady Butterfly to various facilities sometimes with a group sometimes on our own. They were great as a team. Mewdy Blue would walk performing his antics while Lady would cuddle up on the comfiest lap.

    One time a woman complained that she couldn’t hold Mewdy Blue because she had Parkinsons and couldn’t hold her legs still. I set Mewdy Blue on her lap and her shaking gradually lessened!

    I believe Lady Butterfly is one of those cats who can tell who needs them most. Several times in her career she picked out the very person who needed comforting and sometimes the person who was ready to let go of this life.

    In the end, I do not know whether it was the people we visited who benefitted most from our visits or me. I truly enjoyed every day we spent with our friends.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      August 27, 2013 at 7:02 am (6 years ago)

      Thank you for sharing your experience with Mewdy Blue (love the name!), Andrea. I love hearing these stories.

      Reply
  2. Glogirly and Katie
    August 15, 2013 at 9:50 am (6 years ago)

    I would love for Waffles to become a therapy cat. He’s too young and squirrelly now…but I’m working with him on a harness, doing as much socialization as I can, etc… I have a friend here in MN who kitty is Spaghetti Bob the Therapy Kitten and she’s been helping me. : )

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      August 15, 2013 at 4:46 pm (6 years ago)

      Right now it’s hard to imagine Waffles as a therapy cat, Debbie, but with you working with him, I know he’ll make a wonderful one as he matures. 🙂

      Reply
  3. aj
    August 14, 2013 at 9:16 pm (6 years ago)

    question, what cat is that in the picture
    sorry, it’s beyond the article, though I was interested in the article.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      August 15, 2013 at 6:31 am (6 years ago)

      As the photo credit at the bottom of the article states, the cat in the photo is Flash, a therapy cat from Indianapolis.

      Reply
  4. Sue Brandes
    August 14, 2013 at 7:52 pm (6 years ago)

    Wonderful post. No therapy cats in my house either. Most of mine are scaredy cats. I had one who maybe could of been till he got sick. He used to be really mellow. Still is but; now he gets scared sometimes.

    Reply
  5. Caren Gittleman
    August 14, 2013 at 5:13 pm (6 years ago)

    I should sign Cody up…he would be PURRFECT. He is fearless and has to greet everybody. He also will sit and cuddle for hours. I really should do this.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      August 14, 2013 at 6:35 pm (6 years ago)

      Cody sound like the perfect therapy cat, Caren!

      Reply
  6. toni / rctees
    August 14, 2013 at 12:01 pm (6 years ago)

    Great article Ingrid. Abby couldn’t be a therapy cat for anyone else (since she’s a fraidy cat), but she’s therapy for Mark and I every day!!

    Reply

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