Much has been discussed about the relationship between cats and humans.
Cats are known to relax people through their sheer presence – which animal lover can remain angry or in a bad mood, when a cute, lovely feline presence struts around them, comes up and rubs itself luxuriously against their legs?
Or a soft “Miaow” sounds from a corner of the room, a jump off a chair, onto the bed and straight onto their lap, only to roll itself in a loose ball in the absolutely warmest and cutest package possible? Animal assisted therapy cats are worked with for that very purpose, to give that warmth, comfort and humerous presence to human beings who are terminally ill, or suffering mentally.
WHAT IS A THERAPY CAT?
They are feline beings who help humans in a way that is beneficial to their health, having a relaxing, and even healing effect by virtue of their interactions with us.
They give comfort and love to people in care homes and other institutions providing care for sick and ailing people.
These cats are often called emotional support animals, because they are known to be good companions to people with fears and depression, deep feelings of loneliness or abandonment.
WHAT QUALIFIES CATS TO BE GOOD THERAPY ANIMALS?
They should be at least six months old, and have a steady and predictable character.
They must enjoy being around people and be able to travel in cars. At their therapy “workplace”, they must be resilient to the occasional high level of activity around them.
They should have, also, some training on a leash and harness, and feel comfortable with them.
They must have a bite-free biography!
WHICH BREEDS ARE BEST SUITED FOR THE JOB?
The Sphynx is the most popular and well-known breed of therapy cats.
Others include the Persians, Shorthairs, Scottish Folds, Ragdolls and Abyssinians.
It’s important that the owner, who is the cat’s teammate, knows his/her cat’s breed character, so that two of “like minds” are working together….
WHY CATS, OF ALL POSSIBLE ANIMALS?
Our blood pressure tends to stabilize when we hold them. They always give us a reason to laugh at their little pranks, and relax. Stroking their fur improves eye-hand coordination and gentle muscle skills.
Their glance is one of love without question….., and so many other reasons they are much-loved animals for therapy work…
HOW CAN THERAPY CATS HELP AD PATIENTS?
People with Alzheimer’s disease are known to be more prone to bouts of depression, because the continuity of recognition of a world they used to know well, is constantly interrupted by the effects of their failing memory.
They, more often than not, feel a deep desolation, resulting from daily experiences of feeling lost, not remembering their surroundings, or the people around them…
It’s been observed so often, that when they are able to go on an outing with their families or friends who have pets with them, or they see kittens playing on a patio or under foliage….how their spirits are raised, and they even become talkative and more relaxed, cooing and trying to pet them.
This is a positive sign, then in such moments, an AD patient can sometimes remember the pets they themselves had while they were younger….
They may recall those moments of comfort and playfulness, so much a thing of the family, a thing of familiarity, in action.
So often yearning for the past, when all was well in their world…
What more pleasant thing could there be than a sleepily stretching cat, all paws active, the mouth wide open with that pink tongue and all those sharp little teeth showing for a moment, before it closes again, and the cat looks around, tail twitching…
Or a jumping spree! Their little feline friend takes an amazing leap, from the bedroom floor to the dresser, takes a solemn look around, and vaults for a chair…
Or the older, more complacent, roundly cats. The ones which seek YOU out as a chair, their place for a relax, a cuddle and a round of good stroking…
Almost no human will not feel softened and released by this display of companionship, comfort and the occasional bout of mischief…
And almost no cat would resist it, provided they feel comfortable and are treated well. And if they’re used to humans, and are given the time they need to approach people they don’t yet know.
A QUESTION OF INDEPENDANCE
We should remember though, how self – sufficient cats are by nature, and leave them room to live their own lives.
Being cared for and fed in a home base, they’ll usually be glad to return to the vicinity of humans at certain times of the day. Also, they need to have a chance to be outdoors, in a green, but safe area, sharpen their claws a bit, and give in to their playing and hunting instincts.
CATS ARE DAY SLEEPERS
They are more active towards the night, and more sleepy in the morning, unless they haven’t yet had their daily ration of food and water.
Sometimes they’ll sleep on window panes or in odd corners of the house…
More often than not, they’ll pick the softest spot around to take a nap, or a longer sleep…
A WORD OF WARNING
It’s very important, ecspecially if the cat is younger and more active, never to leave windows open at an angle which narrows downwards, if they get caught in the opening, they won’t be able to free themselves, and, by flailing, only dig themselves further in……best to be forewarned to avoid this! It may cause even more than suffering and injury!
A cat can be a wonderful addition to the daily life of an AD patient in supervision and care, and an enlivening experience in an otherwise confusing and serious world…