Newsday Tuesday – Therapy Cats

Today I’d like to talk about therapy cats. Yeah, yeah, the issue of therapy animals has become controversial in recent years. People question folks who carry a pup in their pocket on an airliner or into a restaurant and claim that it’s a therapy animal. I saw a woman get excused from jury duty last year because she couldn’t stand to be away from her dog every day to serve on a jury. Most of us, when we see any dog, large or small, wearing a service dog vest and walking with someone who looks perfectly healthy, become suspicious. We’re accustomed to and okay with the concept of dogs for the blind. But for emotional support? Now that’s become questionable in the minds of many. However, it is also becoming more widespread. And anyone who loves a cat or a dog certainly understands the emotional value that pet brings into their life.

I volunteered once to take kittens from a local shelter into nursing homes to visit the residents. This program was considered a win-win situation. Not only did it delight some residents, it was a good socialization activity for the kitten. In my experience with therapy kittens, while some of the residents didn’t want the kitten anywhere near them, others would sit for an hour stroking the cat and talking about a special cat they remember from their childhood.

There are therapy pet programs all over the world. One is in Ohio where senior cats living their lives out in a facility visit seniors in nursing homes. If you have a cat who would make a good therapy animal for seniors or children, visit this site to get started:

It’s not unheard of for cats to be beloved members of nursing home or recovery home staff. The most famous is probably Oscar, the cat who predicts death. But I think this story is deeper than just the fact that the cat predicts death—he is with the patient when he or she dies. In this nursing home, no one dies alone.

The most poignant story I’m going to share today has to do with a cat in need and how he found help. This happened in New York City. A family left a window open to their apartment and one day found a very ill cat inside—yup, the cat had broken in. Luckily, the “victim” knew what to do and they got the cat to the right people. Turns out this cat, which they named Zebro, was dehydrated, malnourished and had a horrible ear infection, upper respiratory infection and he was suffering renal failure. He’s much better now—still being treated for renal failure, so he’ll need continuous medical treatment, and he lost an ear. But he’s ready to be introduced into a new forever home. Don’t you love those happy endings?

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