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What is feline therapy?

What is feline therapy?

Plainly speaking, feline therapy is therapy that uses pet cats. Its main purpose is to improve the well-being of the patient. It is complementary to clinical treatment. It involves a patient interacting with a specially chosen animal that provides mental support - it is calming, decreases anxiety and feeling of loneliness. 

Research also indicates that feline therapy leads to reduction in blood pressure, lower cholesterol levels and acceleration of wound healing. Some scientists also believe that it causes the release of endorphins. 

For whom cats can be helpful?

Cuddling with a cat is especially recommended for the elderly and young children. In their case, feline therapy is often used as an extension of classical physiotherapy. Patients are much more active and willing to do the exercises if they involve stroking and playing with the cat. The health effects remain the same, with much less stress for the patient who does not need to be overly encouraged to exercise. In this way, feline therapy solves one of the biggest problems in therapy with children and the elderly - reluctance to exercise.

Cats can also be a good choice for people with mental dysfunctions or illnesses. Their soothing presence relieves stress tensions and helps alleviate exacerbations of medical conditions. Probably the first association in the context of such conditions are assistance dogs, which are far more popular these days. Despite the common goal of using animals in assisting treatment, the choice between cat and dog depends on individual needs. Both animals perform their roles very well, but suit different lifestyles and specific patient needs. 

Is a cat enough?

Feline therapy can take many forms. Among the most classic ones are meetings with a therapist and a cat. They combine the benefits of interacting with an animal and contact with a certified professional who often has other functions besides being a cat caretaker. Feline therapy is often used by psychologists and therapists who combine specialties in hopes of achieving better treatment outcomes.

Cats can also serve as assistance animals, especially for people who struggle with depression, autism, ADHD, anxiety disorders or have stress issues. In this case, the patient often owns the animal, which requires no special training. The key issue is the nature of the animal - the mere presence of a cat is enough to reduce feelings of loneliness or stress levels. 

Choosing feline therapy cats

In fact, the most important factor is the character and disposition of the cat. The animal must suit the needs of the owner or the person attending the therapy. A feature that makes it impossible to allow a cat to have contact with humans is aggression - the animal must not attack the patient, no matter what form of feline therapy is being conducted. 

There are as many people as many needs - some will be looking for a pet with which they can maintain constant physical contact and others for one that will keep their space and will just accompany them in their daily functioning. 

Unfortunately, in domestic cats, character does not stabilize until around two years of age. Before that it is not possible to assess the animal for suitability for feline therapy. There are some breeds whose typical characteristics increase the chances of suitable adaptation, but again, there is no guarantee that a particular individual will match the general characteristics of the breed.

The breeds most commonly used for feline therapy are:

  • rag doll

  • Maine coon

  • British cats

  • Burmese cats

Please note that the breed of the cat may not matter in the slightest - also non-breed cats work well as assistance animals. 

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