Is There Such a Thing as Therapy Cats?
It’s hard to believe, but it’s true. There are therapy cats, but not all felines are up for the job.
You are undoubtedly familiar with therapy dogs – dogs who offer comfort and companionship to people in hospitals and assisted living facilities. You may have even heard of potbellied pigs and even miniature horses performing this role – but what about cats? Learn more about cats as therapy animals and to learn how to have your own cat certified.
Do Cats Make Good Therapy Animals?
Research shows that petting a cat can have a therapeutic effect on your health – there are even studies that show the health benefits of purring. Cats have been shown to help reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and trigger positive emotions, so it is no wonder that some people wonder about cats as therapy pets.
Related: Top 10 Therapy Dog Breeds
Compared to dogs, cats are often thought of as ornery or stubborn, but some cats are just as friendly (or more so) than their canine counterparts. In order to be certified as a therapy animal, cats need to meet certain requirements but they can do just as well in this role as dogs. In fact, there are certain cat breeds that work very well as therapy cats – this includes Maine Coon cats, Sphynx cats, Birmans, Ragdolls, Tonkingese, Bobtail, Scottish Folds and the American Curl.
How to Get Your Cat Certified as a Therapy Cat
If your cat is naturally friendly and comfortable around people, he might be a good candidate for therapy cat training. There are a number of organizations out there that offer therapy cat training and your cat will need to meet certain requirements. Some of these organizations include Pet Partners and Love on a Leash – most states also have local pet therapy associations. Though requirements vary from one organization to another, some of the requirements may include the following:
- Cats must generally be at least one year old.
- The cat needs to have lived with you for at least 6 months.
- Cats must show no aggression toward people or other animals.
- Cats must be able to wear a harness and leash.
Related: Top 10 Service Dog Breeds
In addition to meeting basic requirements, your cat will have to undergo training to test the cat’s ability to interact with people and to handle the stress of a hospital or other such environment. Retired show cats often make the best therapy cats because they are used to being handled by unfamiliar people and they are unfazed by crowded rooms.
Once your cat completes his training, he’ll need to be evaluated and, if he passes, undergo a trial period. With the successful completion of his trial period, your cat will be certified at a therapy cat and he will be ready to begin work!
Not all cats are good candidates to become therapy cats – it takes a certain kind of personality as well as some extensive training. If you think that your cat might be a good fit for this type of role, talk to someone at your local therapy pet certification program for more information or to do a test run.