Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) is the use of special animals to help treat people with many different ailments. Volunteers use their time as well as their pet’s time to help train the pets to work with their human partners.
Dogs were mostly used in nursing homes and other medical facilities but now cats are being used in nursing homes and other medical facilities. Cats are used to mainly to visit nursing homes to keep the patients company.
American shorthair cats have been used in the past but more recently long haired 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.
Older people 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.
What are the qualifications for good therapy cats for AAT?
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 AAT 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. Now it’s time to meet the patient and work on the goals.