Good mental and physical health is essential to maintain throughout our lives. There is a wide variety of therapies that can be chosen to help you through dark times. However, recent studies show the benefits of animals, specifically cats, for therapy as they excel in offering a peaceful companionship!
Animal–human interaction not only reduces stress, anxiety and depression but it can help those with sensory issues and conditions such as autism. Additionally, it can provide support for elderly people, especially those with dementia or memory problems.
Furthermore, benefits include giving a sense of purpose to clients and focusing on relationship patterns, for example learning to trust the cats more and more each session. Animal therapy is even known to improve social skills and self-esteem.
But how does it work?
Cats are known for their calming presence and friendly nature. Cat therapy mainly focuses on the clinician and client working together to make sense of patterns of thoughts, behaviours, a chain of events, emotions and motivations that explain how a target problem (for example self-harm) is established and maintained.
Therapy cats are trained specifically to do therapy work, including providing comfort and support. They have passed an evaluation that specifically tests for skills suitable to work in therapy environments.
Petting a cat can be therapeutic for both the cat and the clients they help. Especially on their head and cheeks! Petting them, even for a few minutes, prompts a release of human endorphins (“feel-good chemicals”), and lowers cortisol levels and stress hormones. It is also soothing to listen to cats purr, which is frequently associated with cats’ contentment, boosting everyone’s happiness.
Another benefit of cat therapy is that it can help improve social skills and reduce feelings of isolation. Spending time with cats can be a great way to bridge the gap between those who struggle with social anxiety. Cats are also often affectionate and can provide a sense of companionship and connection that is hard to find elsewhere.
Hopefully, in time, the therapy starts to provide the client with realistic psychological intervention for real-life situations – and who doesn’t love cat cuddles?
By Abbie Mitchell