How to Begin Pet Therapy With Your Cat

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Therapy pets provide comfort for hospital patients and the elderly.
Therapy pets provide comfort for hospital patients and the elderly. (Image: Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)

Like dogs and other animals, cats can provide therapy for hospital patients, nursing home residents or struggling young students. These animals provide relief to those affected by stress, depression and illness. Therapy cats bring a source of positive interaction into the lives of people due to the human-animal bond. With special training, a healthy cat with a calm and tolerant personality can become an therapy cat, according to the Delta Society, a national pet therapy organization.

Contact a national or local pet therapy organization to join them and learn about the classes and certifications they offer. Many of these groups, such as the Delta Society or Love on a Leash offer you and your cat liability insurance. This insurance covers any possible damages caused during your pet therapy visit to an approved facility with your cat. Fill out the application and pay the registration fee, which can vary between $20 and $150, depending on the organization.

Bring your cat to a veterinarian for a health check and vaccinations. Many of these organizations require that your cat has a current rabies vaccination, a rabies certificate and pass a veterinary health exam. The cat must test negative for external parasites and internal parasites through a visual examination and fecal test.

Take a pet training class to teach your cat how to behave and respond to people and noises in a hospital-type facility. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals offers workshops in the New York area, in conjunction with the Delta Society, that prepare your cat for evaluation by the organization to qualify as a therapy pet. The Delta society also offers local workshops taught by Delta-licensed instructors all over the country. Other organizations my refer you to a local animal behaviorist for training.

Register you and your cat officially as a pet therapy team, with the national therapy pet organization you have joined. The organization will have evaluators in your area that can asses your cat's ability to handle new and possibly stressful visiting situations before approving your registration. These tests ensure your pet does not react in a violent or skittish manner when faced with new people. The evaluator will also asses your ability to interact with and control your cat and will approve your registration based on your cat's performance.

Contact a local hospital, elder care facility or school about providing therapy pet sessions with your cat. Let the person in charge of the facility know that you and your cat are registered under a national or local pet therapy organization. Pet therapy groups usually provide referrals to local facilities in your area that they work with, so check with the organization for more information about starting pet therapy in your area with your cat.

Visit the facilities you have chosen and provide therapy after making an appointment with the administrator. Keep the cat on a leash at all times, carry it between rooms and stay calm to reassure your pet during its sessions with new people. Always ask the people you visit if they would like to spend time with a cat and if they have an allergy to pets.

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