Do you ever look over at your serene feline and think that her mere presence inspires a feeling of calm and general wellbeing? Well, you might want to consider whether your cat could step up and become a fully-fledged therapy cat.
Once certified, therapy cats help people deal with anxiety and depression issues by showing up for visits, often focussing on interacting with the very young or old, along with people who’ve experienced illness or traumatic situations.
Here’s how you get involved in the therapy cat world.
First you’ll need to find a reputable organization who can certify you and your cat as a therapy team. Pet Partners is an established agency who claim they are all about improving “human health and well-being through the human-animal bond.” (Technically, you can register ferrets, monkeys and bearded dragons as emotional support animals too.)
You can also search on a local level. When I Googled “New York City cat therapy certification,” a link to the ASPCA website came up. Clicking through to that page announced that they run their cat therapy certification course in conjunction with Pet Partners.
You’ll usually be asked to fill out an initial questionnaire which asks you pertinent questions about you and your cat. You can then expect a follow-up phone call, before eventually being invited to a training course.
On a formal basis, if you’re looking to get certified via Pet Partners, you’ll need to make sure that your cat is at least one-year-old, has lived with you for over six months, doesn’t chow down on raw food, and is up to date with all her vaccinations. (This self-assessment survey is available to help prepare for the application process.)
Obviously, not all felines have the right temperament to be therapy cats. To that end, you’ll need to make sure that your cat is not aggressive, is not just tolerant but also welcoming of meeting and interacting with new people, and definitely does not have any history of violence towards humans or other animals.
Also, you cat must be properly house trained. Because, you know, no one wants to deal with a strange cat walking around pooping everywhere. That’s just common decency.
Most cat therapy organizations also require cats to wear a harness while out on the job. This is for the cat’s safety more than anything else. So make sure your darling furball is cool with being leashed up before forging ahead into the cat therapy world.
Do you have a therapy cat? Any advice for other cat parents who are interested in making their cats therapy cats and helping other people?