Although they are sometimes outshined by their canine counterpoints, cats often make some of the best therapy animals. With their warm soft fur, meditative yogic poses, and relaxing purr, the health benefits of using cats as therapy animals is quite impressive. Here are six reasons why more and more people, nursing home facilities, and hospitals are recruiting cats as therapy animals.
1. Cats make your heart happy. Research has shown repeatedly the effects of cats on easing blood pressure. Researchers have time and again conducted studies in which participants are connected to blood pressure and heart monitors as they pet cats, and the results have been impressive. Petting a cat can reduce your blood pressure, slow your heart rate, and create feelings of well-being and comfort. Individuals with high blood pressure can benefit greatly from spending time with a loving cat. Some studies indicate that simply petting a cat for a sustained period of time can have a similar effect as conventional medication prescribed to patients with high blood pressure.
2. Cats can help relieve loneliness. Many jokes have been made about elderly women and their affinity for cats, but there is a kernel of truth here. Cats really do help relieve loneliness. Simply watch the eyes of nursing home patients when a cat is brought to visit. Their eyes light up as they pet the cat in their lap. The feeling of petting their soft fur is immensely soothing, and the antics of ‘clown cats’ can result in quite an entertaining visit. Cats can be an important part of the lives of their elderly caretakers. For some, their relationship with their cat is the single most important thing in their life. The power of loving companionship to ease stress and loneliness is invaluable and immeasurable.
Also, it has been shown that cats are often quite valuable therapy animals in working with Alzheimer’s patients. The act of holding and petting a cat has been shown to trigger memories in patients who are otherwise incapable of recalling certain memories.
3. Petting or brushing long hair cats can be great physical therapy for individuals with muscle disorders. Recently, long hair cats have been used with patients suffering from muscle conditions. The act of brushing a cat’s thick coat can help to slowly increase flexibility and ease muscle and joint stiffness. Not only is brushing a cat’s hair good for exercising certain muscles, it is also quite relaxing. The best type of cat for this type of pet therapy is said to be the long hair Persian breed.
4. Cats can help troubled youth and mental health patients who live in facilities establish healthy, non-judgmental relationships. Cats have recently been used in facilities that help troubled teens learn important life skills. Having a house pet such as a cat can help young adults learn responsibility. A loving cat can also help troubled teens establish a stable, healthy relationship. For some, this can constitute the most stable relationship in their life. Cats are also used in mental health facilities to provide its residents with a source of companionship and friendship, as well as to help teach responsibility. For some, their relationship with a cat can be life transforming.
5. The power of the fur and the purr. Although dogs have made excellent pet therapy animals for decades, there is nothing quite as relaxing as the luxurious fur of a cat. As most cat lovers will attest, it just begs to be combed and petted. Cat’s coats tend to be much softer and thicker than dog’s. The texture of a cat’s coat evokes feelings of pleasure, relaxation, and well being.
The unmistakable purr of the feline is another important aspect of why cats make good pet therapy animals. A cat’s purr has long been associated with feelings of relaxation, warmth, and comfort. Indeed, researchers have begun doing research on the effects of a cat’s purring on their owners. A cat’s purr is also being credited with helping perennial insomniacs finally catch some shut-eye. In fact, a recording of a cat’s soft purr is currently being marketed to individuals who have trouble falling asleep. The creators of the recording claim that the sound of a cat’s purr can help almost anyone achieve a good night’s rest.