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Can Cats Make Good Therapy Animals?

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You probably think of dogs when you think of therapy animals. I’ll admit, dogs are an ideal choice since they’re so easy to train and adapt seamlessly to new situations and environments. But it turns out that cats can make great therapy animals too!

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Image Source: Ann via Flickr.com

Therapy cats are specially trained to help people in a medically beneficial way, largely through relaxation, and emotional and physical healing. Nursing homes are already taking advantage of the benefits cats can provide. Many of them have live-in cats who roam from room to room to visit residents and staff. Not only do the therapy cats provide comfort, they can also lower blood pressure, help people feel safe, and relieve loneliness and depression. That’s because being around beloved animals releases oxytocin into our bodies which triggers happy feelings!

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Image Source: Adam Rifkin via Flickr.com

As you may have guessed, not all cats are appropriate for therapy work. In fact, it takes a very special kind of cat.

  • First and foremost, therapy cats must have gentle and predictable temperaments.
  • Many therapy cats travel to a variety of nursing homes, schools, hospices, prisons, and retirement homes, so they need to be comfortable traveling and adaptable to a variety of environments and situations.
  • Therapy cats must be comfortably being handled and picked up– even by children who may not have the best handling skills. Retired show cats who are used to being handled by strangers can make great therapy cats!
  • Because of the variety of environments and situations they may end up in, therapy cats should be comfortable around loud noises and fast-moving people.

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Image Source: Ann via Flickr.com

Since therapy cats often work with people who are ill or otherwise immune compromised, therapy cats must be up to date on vaccinations and be on a routine annual exam schedule. Think your cat may be a good therapy cat candidate? Stay tuned for an article about how to get started!

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Written by Andee Bingham
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