“Is that a cat?” This question is often asked in amazement when I take my cat Laser on visits to local hospitals. People usually expect only dogs to be involved in pet-facilitated therapy, but cats fill a special role in this type of work.
Cats as Therapists
Laser is one of just 198 cats (compared to more than 8,000 dogs) registered as therapy pets through the Delta Society, an international nonprofit organization with the mission to improve human health through service and therapy animals. Its Pet Partners Program was established in 1990 to ensure that people and animals, are well-prepared to participate in animal-assisted activity (AAA) and animal-assisted therapy (AAT) programs. It is the only national registry that requires volunteer training and screen animal/handler teams.
Laser and I volunteer with Hand in Paw, a group of more than 80 Delta Society-registered Pet Partner teams. We most often visit the Children’s Hospital of Alabama and the University of Alabama at Birmingham Center for Psychiatric Medicine geriatric unit.
“Some people just prefer cats to dogs or are afraid of dogs,” says Beth Franklin, executive director of Hand in Paw. “In those cases, cats are much more beneficial and effective in encouraging interactions.”
**For the full article, pick up the November issue of CAT FANCY.**
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