As most of you know, my human hasn’t been well for the past few days. Last week, she had an outpatient procedure, and her recovery was harder and more painful than she expected. She was in bed and not able to do much until the night of Christmas Eve. Since then, she has slowly been getting her life back and she should be back to normal (whatever that means for her) by the beginning of the new year.
Those of you who have followed this, either on my blog or on social media, have expected me to step up and be a therapy cat for her — spend time with her, helping her heal, and making her feel better. But guess what? That is not what I do! In fact, I’ve been kind of upset that my human has been sick and when she was at her worst, I avoided her for much of the day (although I did sleep next to her at night). I bet you are wondering what the deal is. And it is as simple as explaining the difference between a therapy cat and an emotional support animal.
An emotional support animal has a sympathetic and close bond with her human. She senses her human’s emotions and stresses, and does her best to help her human feel better. An emotional support animal is there for her human to lean on, to focus on when things are difficult, to provide (as the title implies) emotional support. An emotional support animal’s purpose lies with one human — the one she belongs to.
A therapy cat, on the other hand, is half of a team that visits hospitals, nursing homes, schools, and other facilities — anywhere that people are sick or stressed out and might benefit from visits from a soft, furry creature. A therapy cat does this for many strangers over the course of a visit, or sometimes just a handful, or occasionally just one person who she may or may not know. A therapy cat is comfortable being out in public and lending her purrs to people she has never met before. How can she do this? It’s the other half of the team that makes this possible — her human.
The human half of a therapy cat team does everything in her power to make the therapy cat’s job easy and stress-free. She is in charge of making all the arrangements at the facilities, making sure I have the proper training (including continuing education) for my visits, and keeping me safe 100 percent of the time. She is my driver, my personal assistant, my groomer, and my bodyguard. She must be functioning at her highest awareness for me to do my job well. If there is anything lacking from her, it hampers my ability to be the best therapy cat I can be.
So as you can see, I need my human healthy and mentally sharp because I rely on her for everything. And because she was sick, I didn’t know what to do! I was lost, confused, and to be honest, a little bit scared. Not only was I not going on any therapy cat visits, we weren’t doing any training sessions, dress up photo shoots, or walks outside. She was barely able to feed us cats and scoop the litter boxes. My whole routine — my whole life — was turned upside down.
My human says I am a great therapy cat, but I’m not a great emotional support animal. In fact, if I lend her any sort of emotional support, it’s that focusing on me and my needs keeps her emotions in check during stressful situations. That is a good thing, because instead of melting down when something goes wrong at the airport, for example, she has to think of me first, and make sure I’m happy.
It’s true, some therapy cats are also emotional support animals. But they were emotional support animals first. Their humans found out later on that they could do the same work with others and they got certified for therapy work. I was always a therapy cat first, with my human catering to all my needs. Does that make me a diva? I guess it kind of does!
So there you have it! That’s why I don’t nurse my human when she’s sick. But don’t worry, she wasn’t in bed all alone. Someone else was by her side nearly the whole time she was bedridden: