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Cats As Therapy Animals

Apr 8, 2008
When people think of therapy animals, they almost immediately think of therapy dogs, usually Golden Retrievers or Labradors of some kind, however, they would be wrong in thinking that these are the only animals that can help the disabled and the elderly. Cats are fast becoming therapy animals and helpers for those who can not do for themselves.

Cats have always been around nursing homes and some rehabilitation centers to interact with the patience. Study after study have shown that interaction with animals brighten the days of those who are living in nursing facilities and do not regularly have any visitors. Even if they do have regular visitors, it's nice to have a furry friend come by your room for a visit.

There are several criteria that a cat must poses before being chosen for the therapy assistant job. They must be over a year old and usually, there are certain breeds that have a better disposition and temperament for this type of work. Several of the working assistant cats have been former show cats and are now retired from adventures of shows.

The cat must be able to remain still and calm in situations where many people are vying for its attention and affection. Everyone wants to pet it or hold it at the same time and the cat must be calm and not be wanting to jump away from this. Again, there are certain breeds that work better with people than others. It's a matter of finding the right cat for the job of therapy cat.

Of course it goes without saying that the cat must be kept up on all its shots, flea medications and worming. The cat must be healthy so that it does not get any of the diseases that might be circulating within the nursing home.

Now a cat can not open doors or walk in front of a wheel chair, but they do make great companion animals for those people who don't get out of their houses because of a mental or physical disability. Sometimes, cats can be trained to pull on a piece of fabric to open a cabinet or a drawer if it is light.

They can also be a type of alarm clock for medications, pushing the bottles off the table into the persons lap. Of course all this takes time, training and a lot of patience but it can be done with the right cat and the right person willing to put in the time and love the cat needs to be trained to assist someone.

Cats, just as dogs, need to be recertified each year as an assistance dog. The test are rather simple for a cat, they must be able to hold still while being touched by many hands at the same time. They must not be aggressive at any point in the testing or any time within its visits to the nursing homes or any home it is placed in. the cat must be current with all it's vet records and must maintain an even disposition.
About the Author
Tristan Andrews is a freelance author who writes articles about Cats and Cat News.
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