During my therapy cat rounds, and sometimes when I’m not doing them, my human gets asked a lot of questions about therapy cats. People want to know what we do, how I became one, how I qualified, and more! So I thought this would be a good time to answer some of these questions. I hope you find my answers interesting, and that you learn a little bit more about what I do!
Is Summer your pet?
Yes, lots of people ask my human if I belong to her! It is actually one of my most commonly asked questions. And yes, 99% of the time, the therapy animal — cat, dog, rabbit, or other pet — belongs to the person who is accompanying it. The other 1% is when a volunteer has more than one therapy pet. Then they’ll need someone to handle the second one.
Since a successful therapy pet team relies a lot on the ability of the animal to trust the handler, it makes sense that that person would be the owner. It’s doubly important for cats, who aren’t as accustomed to being in public spaces.
Is she your emotional support animal?
That’s a question that gets asked because people often confuse emotional support animals with therapy animals. My human has developed an easy way to explain the difference: Therapy pets offer comfort to other people, while emotional support animals are there solely for the comfort of the owner.
That doesn’t mean that therapy cats can’t also be emotional support animals. Many are! Just not me. I so strongly rely on my human when we’re out that when she shows weakness, it upsets me and makes me nervous. So she saves any emotional outbursts for when we are at home. When she is out with me, she stays cool for my benefit. It’s a skill she’s developed.
Did she have to be trained to be a therapy cat?
While there is no formal therapy cat training, it’s important to develop and build on the social skills the cat already has. Every cat that has become a therapy cat shows exceptional friendliness towards humans, but it’s a quality that can deteriorate without practice and regular exposure to strangers.
Every therapy cat has his or her own path to doing this work. Often, their owner will take the cat out to stores and to friend’s homes. Since I’m pedigreed, my path involved competing in cat shows, where I met and was handled by many, many different people over the course of many weekends. Actually, any housecat can compete in these shows, since there is a Household Pet category, but not many people know that. Shows also involve entry fees, and investing in show enclosures and often travel, so it’s not always available to everyone.
Did she have to pass a test to be a therapy cat?
You bet I did! Passing the evaluation is important. It’s one thing for someone to say their cat can do therapy work and another thing altogether to show she can in front of a group of people she doesn’t know. There are two organizations, Pet Partners and Love on a Leash, that evaluate pets for therapy work. There are also local therapy pet organizations that do it, and usually these evaluations are based on those by the national organizations.
If you are wondering why evaluation is so important, and why you can’t just walk into a nursing home with a friendly cat, there’s a very good reason: the insurance. Because the volunteer is taking the cat to a public setting and the cat is interacting with people, the volunteer could be liable for anything bad that may happen. Passing an evaluation from an organization gives the volunteer access to their insurance, and protects them and their animal.
Do you get paid for working with a therapy cat?
Ha, no. It’s volunteer work. And it’s very gratifying volunteer work for those who do it. My human can attest to that. The organization we belong to is a nonprofit that exists on donations, from a combination of the facilities we visit, corporate donors, and individuals who give.
And guess what? It’s Giving Tuesday, so if you would like to make a donation to our group, Love on 4 Paws, you can do so right here.
I hope this answered some of your questions about my therapy cat work! If you want to know anything else, let me know in the comments.
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Catherine Lingg says
Summer, you are a very special kitty indeed. I wanted to donate to your group but today is Monday. So I can do it tomorrow on Tuesday
Lola The Rescued Cat says
These are very interesting questions, and we wondered about a few of them ourselves. It’s just so pawesome that you and your human volunteer to help people.
Memories of Eric and Flynn says
That was very interesting, Summer.
Catherine Lingg says
Summer, I knew a lot about this. I didn’t know about the insurance. What You do is amazing.
Lots of information here – especially if someone is thinking about training their kitty to be a therapy cat or “emotional support” cat. You do GOOD WORK dear Summer!
Great answers, Summer! We really learned a lot about you today!
It is so wonderful that you are able to be a therapy cat. You are amazing!
MARIETTE VANDENMUNCKHOF-VEDDER says
That was a great explanation on your task and what it took for getting there.
Loved the ‘Love on a Leash’ phrase! LL…
No doubt it is rewarding for any handler and there is a lot of love involved for the fur baby working with.
Ours have a bad week with the painters back for the exterior now…
All the noises and with their ladders up against the walls makes them uneasy.
I’ve tried to keep the indoor shutters closed a bit more so they can’t see it.
But the shadows in the kitchen bay window through our Ikea shades made them look with big eyes.
If I tell them, it’s okay, they make your home pretty, it calms them down. Certainly the way we behave, does reflect in our fur babies!
Those were really interesting sweet Summer and I love then name Love on a Leash!
That is great information. Did your human need training, as well? She would need a lot of skills to help you in your work.
Melissa & Mudpie says
Great info, Summer! We’re so proud to know you and your human. You are both incredibly special.
Loved reading all about the path(s) to take to becoming a Therapy Kitty.
Our Angel Toki might have been a good candidate…though petcretary was too busy with two preschoolers at the time…that dude loved everyone, and he went to school a few times for ‘show and tell’! He would go and try to get love from all the kids in that preschoolclass, and then he went exploring all over the classroom.
Marv and Barb says
Summer, we love that you are a therapy cat! Thanks for answering the questions that so many people ask! We were only surprised by the “Do you get paid?” Question…we never would have thought to ask that question!
The Poupounette Gang says
That’s a lot of great information, Summer! Thanks!
Tama and Benny
Ellen Pilch says
Great questions and answers. I admire you and your human for all the time you put into helping others. XO
pat k says
A lot of work and preparation is done in order to volunteer.
Eastside Cats says
I’ve added Love on 4 Paws to my donation list, Summer.
I was always so jealous at eating disorder treatment because all the therapy pet visits were with dogs! I remember asking one of the ladies if they had any therapy cats in their organization and she said no (this was in 2005). Then she went on to say she only knew 4 therapy cats in the entire US (I know this is no longer true or even nearly true). I found that so hard to believe. But now, after my experience with Bear (and he would’ve been a terrible therapy cat), I see the potential of cats and it just blows my mind that so few cats participate.
The Florida Furkids says
We think we all get “paid” by Summer being a therapy cat because we get a glimpse of how much happiness she spreads.
Ernie the Island Cat says
Thanks for explaining more about therapy pets, Summer. What you do is such a good thing and we’re all proud of you.
Katie Isabella says
Summer, I remember many of these things from former blogs but I loved every word this time as well. There were some things you hadn’t touched on in precious blogs. Thank you Summer for being such a good girl and thank you, Janiss, for embarking on this good thing with Summer. I assure the two of you bring a smile and joy wherever you go.
I have a question though. How much time generally speaking will you spend with the patient? In terms of minutes? My only experience is rarely seeing someone with a dog in the hospital waiting rooms..sometimes, and they just pass the dog through allowing a few pets and perhaps a question and they hurry on.
Summer Samba says
The time we spend with patients really varies! If it’s a quiet day, we can spend a lot of quality time, maybe 15 minutes, with someone. But if the facility is full and there are a lot of sections to visit, we have to rush through the visits and can only spend maybe 5 minutes with each patient, tops. Our visits are for an hour to 90 minutes (more than 90 minutes can be too tiring for the animal), and we often have a lot to fit in.
Mickey's Musings says
Pawsome questions and answers about being a therapy cat!
You have the right personality for being a therapy cat too Summer 🙂