Thursday, April 14, 2011

Matthew's Latest "Inspirational Tail" - Therapy Cats!


The Power of Therapy Pets: The Cat’s Meow

By Matthew Johnson of Waggz & Whiskerz

April 14 2011

Recently I explained that Animal Assisted Therapy is the use of special animals that help treat people with many different ailments. Doctors, nurses and psychologists decide how animals can be used to help people. They also choose what animal is best for which patient. Volunteers use their time as well as their pet's time to help train the pets to work with their human partners.

What I have not discussed yet is that often times people are awarded therapy Cats! Yes that’s right, Therapy Cats, not only am I learning more about this incredible find but I am experimenting the process with my own cat “Monkey”.

What I have noticed about my cat “Monkey” (who by all means is NOT a proper therapy cat yet). Is that “Monkey” is very loving and in tune with my needs. “Monkey” came into my life about a year and a half ago as was given to me for free by a nice elderly woman in Mississauga. “Monkey” was 9 weeks old when I got her and weighed 3 pounds. At first she ignored me but after a few days she became very fond of me and of course her big sister “Woofie”.

Since becoming sick in July 2010 “Monkey” has really calmed down, she now will lie on my chest and nuzzle her head into my chin when I am not up for walking around. She will push her head into my hand and force me to pet her; she will sleep on the bed with “Woofie” and me & “Benji”

“Monkey” will force me to follow her to give her a mixture of wet and dry food and likes me to search for her, she knows this is excersise for me and you can see she is thinking about each move she makes, if I fail to find her she will pop out and reassure me that she is just around the corner. “Monkey” has adapted from being a wild little kitten to a calm serine indoor cat, she is in tune with my emotions and needs and can read my every mood. It is this evolution that has prompted me to learn more about therapy cats and this is what I have discovered.

As we all know,dogs were mostly used in the pet service industry and medical facilities as helpers and therapy guides but now dogs are not the only four legged friends that are being used in nursing homes and other places such as hospitals and schools. Cats are used to keep the patients company and often are awarded to those who are in critical states of health. For every therapy dog awarded 3 times the amount of therapy cats are awarded to patients according to the Canadian Therapy Pet Program.

Shorthair cats have been used in the past but more recently longhaired cats are being used. Not every cat is right for therapy programs. The cat should work well with people and be able to sit with a patient for a long time. Persian cats work well with people. Persian cats are well suited because of their calm nature and
unconditional love.

Alzheimer’s patients often sometimes forget about who they are, where they are and even the time of day. Stroking a cat's fur can sometimes bring back memories from the past as well as providing relief from loneliness. The elderly also have physical ailments such as strokes, arthritis, and multiple sclerosis. Grooming longhaired cats is great therapy for people with muscle conditions. Playing with cat toys can also improve the flexibility of the individual.

Cats are also put to work with children and teens in mental health facilities. Caring for the cats encourages children to learn responsibility. They also learn lessons in proper hygiene and how to show affection in a positive means.

What are the qualifications for good therapy cats? They should be at least one year old and have a good personality. Since these cats will be working in hospitals or nursing homes, they may be exposed to germs. Older cat are less likely to get sick in this setting. All cats that apply for Therapy Cat programs go to a veterinarian and must get all their shots. They must go through a training program, which includes being exposed to loud noises, crowds, and frequent handling. After this training, a cat is accompanied by an animal-assisted therapist and visits the facility. They meet with the person in charge and discuss goals. Following this process the cats meet the patient and work on the goals.

Pets have always been a part of human’s lives. Pets and people provide a great service for today's senior citizens as well as children. Now people can care for and love a pet too, even if they are not living at home. I plan to explore this more and hopefully share my experiences with those who are also in need of a loving friend.

Stay tuned for more updates on May 1 2011 and Don’t forget on April 22 at the All About Pets Show me & Woofie will be making a presentation on the main stage on the Power of Therapy dogs as well as presenting a giant donation cheque of $1000.00 to the Etobicoke Humane Society

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