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Cats as Therapy Animals

We’ve all heard of and seen guide dogs and service dogs, both here in Fayetteville NC and in many other cities. Every day, these wonderful dogs help people with handicaps or disabilities live independently. Therapy cats, however, are not nearly as well known. While there have been several studies that show the health benefits cats bring us, only fairly recently has the value of cats as therapy animals begun to come to light. As anyone with a cuddly kitty knows, our feline friends soothe us with their presence, and these lovable furballs, with their endearing purrs and charming mannerisms, often make us smile and help us relax.

Kitties can help many people in various situations. Their cuddles and affection can benefit stroke victims, help children with speech and hearing problems, decrease anxiety in patients, and help calm teens in juvenile detention facilities. Therapy cats also relax children who stay in hospitals, and soothe patients in nursing homes or hospice care. Alzheimer’s patients have also been known to benefit from petting therapy cats.

Cats need to be certified to be able to work as therapy animals. There are currently several organizations that provide this type of certification. The cat must have an exceptionally calm disposition to work in therapy. Going from place to place can be very stressful for some kitties, so it takes a certain type of cat to be able to take all that moving around in stride. There are also minimum age requirements in many cases, and dietary restrictions as well. Therapy cats cannot be fed a raw-food diet, as this can be dangerous to patients with comprised immune systems.

Perhaps the most famous example of someone who was helped tremendously by a cat is Jackson Galaxy, the renowned ‘Cat Whisperer’ from the My Cat from Hell TV show. Galaxy credits his cat Benny with saving him from drug and alcohol addiction, and even wrote a book, Cat Daddy, about that life-changing experience.

It’s no surprise that cats are gaining more and more recognition as therapy animals. Owning a cat – or being owned by one, as often seems to be the case – provides several health benefits. Though research is still being done, various studies have shown that cat owners have lower rates of cardiovascular disease, fewer allergy and immunity issues, lower blood pressure, reduced risk of stroke, lower cholesterol, and are less at risk for depression and anxiety.

Please visit our site frequently for more tips from your Fayetteville NC vet on cat care and cat behavior.

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