It has come as no secret that pets have been used as therapy animals for years in senior care centers, nursing homes, and in some cases in hospital wards. Although for years both therapy dogs, and even therapy horses have become common, in more recent years, cats have been trained as therapy animals. S.A.R.A., Service Animal Registry of America TM claims to be the oldest organization to train and certify service animals, and it has a program for cats.
One of the most poignant stories I've read was the case of Richard, an autistic child, written by his father, J. Manerling. JM, who worked in neuroscience, thought that perhaps Richard might respond to a dog, and took him to an animal shelter one day. Although Richard walked right by the dogs and puppies, when they entered the area housing cats, Richard alerted immediately at the sight of a tuxedo cat in a cage, pointed, and said "Cat!" Read more about this fascinating story in the article, Cat Therapy for Autistic Children.
Aside from "official" therapy cats, a huge number of readers responded with their own stories, after I posted a request in a User Answer on Therapy Cats. Some of the stories are so compelling that they deserve to be shared:
- Our Therapy Cat JeT
My husband literally dropped dead in front of myself and my two sons 4 years ago. We buried him the Saturday before Father's Day. A year later ON Father's Day our therapy Kitty- JeT came into our lives. JeT has helped heal the part of our hearts that were torn out that day. He treats each of us differently, he seems to know when we each need extra loving. I believe he has helped all of us even more than counseling and anti-depressants. I'm not saying to quit your meds and get a cat, but a feline companion can be a great addition for good mental health.
- My Oliver
My 15-year-old crippled kitty is my WonderCat. He wuld not leave me alone 2 years while going thru chemotherapy &, thank goodness, he'll be there again for me when I go start the chemo again in 1 week. I also take him to the nursing home where my former mom-in-law lives. She has advanced Alzheimer's & doesn't speak any more, but she loves to cuddle with him. And he knows there's something different - he never even makes a move off her bed. The sight of a cat walking on a leash brings out the best in all the patients at the home. I'm so thankful for my furry friend, Oliver!
- My Sunshine - My Ray of Light and Life
I have a 11 year old furry friend sunshine I found her 11 years ago tied to a gate in a plastic bag, she was only a few weeks old, I knew I had to give her a chance of surviving. She was so fragile; nearly departing the planet, but Sunshine and I walked and grew together through her journey of recovery. She has and does repay this time and time over as I have a life limiting illness, and she keeps me alive and nurtures me through my pain and physical/mental challenges which I am faced with. She talks and chats when I need a talk and sits with me, when I try to sleep and I experience the acute pain she sings to me with her sweet purring and I drift into a peaceful sleep, Sunshine is a true gift of life/love for me.