When you think about therapy pets, you probably envision well-behaved dogs that bring joy and light to seniors living in retirement homes.
Dogs, however, aren’t the only therapy pets in town. Cats are getting in on the action as well.
Cat Love Therapy is a program that has been running in Lincoln since 2011 through The Cat House. The program was started by Shawntel Myers of Lincoln after she read a book about a therapy dog and wondered why cats couldn’t do similar types of activities.
Myers, a volunteer for The Cat House, works with a handful of volunteers who take cats into places where people can benefit from pet therapy, primarily senior living centers. She said it’s a great way to share cats with people who otherwise would not have access to them.
Finding cats that are suitable for therapy visits can be challenging. Myers said that she has learned to recognize when a cat will do well as a therapy pet. Some cats don’t like car rides and won’t tolerate being put in a harness and on a leash.
Still, Myers has been able to find cats that are up for adoption at The Cat House to handle these visits, which take place two to three times a month. In fact, she finds many cats enjoy it and love the social time. And the people getting the visits love it as well.
“It’s really nice to see that smile on their faces,” Myers said.
Another Lincoln woman participates in cat therapy with her own cat through an organization called Love on a Leash. Alison Hunter-Frederick became certified with the national organization in January and takes her cat Rainy to senior living centers once a week.
She got the idea to participate in cat therapy after deciding she wanted Rainy to be better socialized. She wanted Rainy to do cat agility but was not having a lot of luck finding a place to do it.
“I thought, ‘Why not have her be a therapy cat?’” she said.
Hunter-Frederick said she gets happiness out of seeing the joy that Rainy brings to the senior residents, many of whom are lonely and don’t get many outside visitors. She focuses her visits at Eastmont Towers and Tabitha Health Care Services.
She also takes Rainy to participate in the R.E.A.D. animal therapy program in Lincoln, where children read to animals, mostly dogs. She recently took part in her first training session, and Rainy was the only cat there.