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.Continue Reading
Even if our cats live into their late teens and sometimes early twenties, it’s just not long enough. The price we pay for sharing our lives with these wonderful companions is that all of us who considers our cats family members or best friends will sooner or later experience the pain of loss, and it can be as devastating as the loss of any loved one.
When news of the shooting in Newtown started breaking, Robin Olson watched, along with the rest of the world, horrified at what was happening in her community: the shooter lived only a few streets away from her Sandy Hook home. Robin shared her emotions in a gripping series of blog posts titled The Saddest Place on Earth: Sandy Hook, CT. But writing about it wasn’t enough. Robin wanted to help her community heal.
Out of the sadness, pain and horror, Robin created something beautiful: her program, Kitties for Kits, offers playtime, pets and purrs with the kittens she fosters for her rescue group, Kitten Associates. “I saw what happened to this town, and like everybody else, I wanted to do something,” said Robin in an interview with NBC News New York.Continue Reading
We first meet Solomon in spirit form. He tells us that “in the spirit world, we cats are shining cats, and we live in a way that is impossible to live on earth. There is no meowing or yowling, but we do purr, and we communicate by telepathy. … There are shining people, too. There is no pollution, no illness, and no war.” Sounds like the kind of place you never want to leave. But when Solomon is asked to go back to earth to help Ellen, the human he loved the most, he readily agrees. He had been Ellen’s cat when she was a child. She is facing some major challenges, and Solomon takes on the assignment of helping her through them by reuniting with her.
Helping Ellen is not easy. Ellen’s husband is an alcoholic, her young son John is quite a handful, and Jessica, the resident cat, is not thrilled with the newcomer. Solomon helps the family face the repossession of the family home, relocation to a cramped caravan, Ellen’s illness, and a stint of trying to survive in the wild. It’s a lot for one small cat to deal with, but Solomon is up to the task.
Research has shown that cats have healing powers. Not only does petting a cat lower your blood pressure and reduce your risk of heart attack, the cat’s purr can actually heal muscles, tendons and bones. Those of us who share our lives with cats don’t need research studies to prove that a purring cat in our lap or by our side can make all the world’s problems seem a little bit less daunting.
Some cats share these healing powers with a wider audience than just their human family members. Therapy cats bring comfort and joy to nursing home residents and others who are unable to keep their own pets. They provide a much needed break in the daily routine for facility residents and staff alike.
Several studies have shown dogs’ ability to distinguish people with both early and late cancers from healthy controls. It is believed that dogs can identify VOC’s (volatile organic compounds) that are present in a person’s breath who has cancer. Seizure dogs alert their owners to an impending epileptic seizure; how dogs do this is a mystery, but some trainers and researchers think they detect subtle changes in human behavior or scent before an episode occurs. I have not found any research done with cats, but I don’t think it’s too much of a leap to assume that cats would be as sensitive to changes in a human’s body chemistry as dogs – if not more so.
Cats and their humans often mirror each others’ physical and emotional states.Continue Reading
Believe it or not, our sweet-bundles-of-fur are probably saving us a bundle in medical bills.
This is another reason I’m into natural cat care—not only is it more ecological and vet-bill preventative, but our cats contribute so much to our well-being that we want to give them more life-extending love. Wait til you hear all this!
While cats in particular have healing powers, research on pet companionship in general is also impressive.
According to research discussed in this news report, people with pets save the Australian health service about $880 million per year and save Germany about $6.6 billion per year. The research found that people with pets:
need fewer visits to their doctor each year
have fewer sleeping difficulties
are less likely to need heart condition medicine
I was really excited about some research I found on cats in particular.
Cats may reduce heart attack risk by 40%
While a study showed that both cats and dogs reduced stress-related blood pressure more than ace inhibitor medication, a study at the University of Minnesota found that cats in particular may reduce your chances of a heart attack by 40%.
The study, which looked at 4,435 Americans aged 30 to 75, showed that those who did not have a cat had a 40% higher risk of having a heart attack and a 30% greater risk of dying from other heart diseases than those who have or have had a cat.
I was diagnosed with a heart arrhythmia many years ago. That’s a crazy erratic, racing heartbeat that happens periodically in varying degrees of intensity and threat.
I did not have a cat at the time. A bit later I lived with cats again and a bit later I stopped having arrhythmia. Didn’t think much of it.
Fast forward many years to when my only cat, Bastet, was dying. I started having bouts of terrible heart arrhythmia symptoms. After she died it got worse–and by worse I mean nearly constant.
It stopped the day we brought home two new purring youngsters named Phil and Joel. The arrhythmia disappeared that day and hasn’t returned since. Were there other factors that may have affected my heart arrhythmia in these cases? Probably. But the timing of the healing was uncanny.
What’s at the root of a cat’s healing power?
There’s certainly some mystery as to exactly how cats and dogs manage to be good for our health. So far my investigation has uncovered these research nuggets about the healing power of kitty cats:
Last night, I finished reading Buckley’s Story, Lessons from a Feline Master Teacher by Ingrid King. Although I had purchased this book last fall, it was too difficult for me to read, having said goodbye in November to our beloved boy cat Matisse, aka Mr. Boober, after his brave battle with lymphoma.
Ingrid’s book is more than just a story about a special cat named Buckley, for Ingrid touches upon many aspects of the human-animal bond, as well as the animal-animal bond, including intuition and communication, that really make one stop and think. This is a book that sticks with you after you finish it, and no doubt I will be reading sections over again.
Ingrid talks about her cat Amber “holding the space” which really intrigued me. Here’s a short excerpt, from page 86:
“…..I made sure that I paid enough attention to Amber during this time … She quietly held the space for both Buckley and me. Some people, as well as some animals, are masters at holding the space. It means creating a quiet, safe, and peaceful environment. By being completely centered and secure in herself, Amber focused her gentle energy on allowing Buckley and me to relax into whatever was happening and to find our own way through it with as little worry and fear as possible.”
This concept – holding the space – is what our cat Mr. Boober did in our home, especially with our two girl kitties Lulu (his little sister) and Aliza (for better or for worse, his constant companion.) But we didn’t realize this until he had passed away. The attitudes of the girls, and the dynamics between them, were suddenly all messed up. The girls didn’t know quite how to cope, because the one who had held the space for them was Boober, and now he was gone. My husband and I described Boober as the glue that kept the three cats together and content. Holding the space.
I am fortunate to have met Ingrid via Twitter (gotta love social media!) and we’ve become friends. Ingrid thinks that perhaps Aliza or Lulu might eventually step up to fill the void (and hold the space) but of course it won’t be exactly the same.
It immediately made me think of a series of pictures that I took last fall. Both girls were extremely attentive to Boober toward the end of his life when he went blind. Aliza and Lulu would stick close by him…taking turns cleaning him…just being with him. Aliza especially, who was literally hopelessly in love with Boober, rarely left his side. I wanted to take some pictures of the two of them together, although our digital camera wasn’t cooperating. When I came around the bed, I saw Aliza’s paw and arm on top of Boober’s. My heart melted, and I’m so glad I captured this moment. I think Aliza’s only concern was to provide comfort and serenity in the midst of some scary changes. I think during those moments, she was holding the space.
Laura Kuhlmann is the owner and designer of Petscribbles, a unique line of hand-crafted greeting cards for, from, and about pets. Laura designs and makes the artistic and upscale, yet fun, personal, and whimsical cards herself. The cards are made to order in Little Egg Harbor, New Jersey, USA, and only the best cardstocks, decorative papers and embellishments are used. Laura and her Chief Feline Officer Lulu pride themselves on using recycled materials whenever possible. Laura and her husband are owned by two cats: a 9-year old Ragdoll girl named Lulu (the CFO mentioned above); and a 15-ish years young formerly feral kitty named Aliza-Loo Doolittle. Aliza enjoys a fulfilling retirement doing very little work (aka Doolittle).