One of the biggest fan of cats is Betty White, the actress, animal activist and author of the book Pet Love. As a senior she notes in her book that an increasing number of hospitals and nursing homes are letting cats roam free in their halls.
Betty’s enthusiasm about this idea is backed up by scientific research that has found that therapy pets such as small cats and dogs definitely do have the power to heal the ailing and elderly psychologically.
It is also very well known that a small pet such as a cat can relieve the loneliness that is experienced by elderly individuals who have lost a spouse. A pet can provide unconditional love as well as relaxation and chances for the owner to get more exercise.
Cats in particularly are known for relaxing the human mind and also being trusting and gentle with older people. Studies have shown that patients in hospitals and nursing homes who have regular visits from pets are more positive in attitude and take the human mind of off pain, boredom and other sorrows.
Pet therapy has been especially valuable as an aid in helping the elderly, the infirm, the addicted and the abused to reach out and connect emotionally once again. Pet therapy is especially successful with children who feel abandoned lonely or ill. Pets have also been known to bring out the best in individuals who can’t connect anymore or who have lost their memories. The same goes for cats and children with autism.
These types of cats, called therapy animals, travel to convalescent homes, hospitals, day care centers, juvenile halls and prisons along with their owners for the express purpose of cheering people up. However not every type of cat makes a good therapy cat. The best ones have a calm gentle personality and are naturally people-friendly.
The ideal therapy cat must love petting and attention and not be skittish around surprising noises, wheelchairs and the other animals that are found in institutions. The cat also can’t be that vocal as it could disturb people who are trying to sleep. Therefore a Siamese may not be a good idea. Researchers in the field of pet-assisted therapy have found that physically being around a cat can help lower high blood pressure and stress levels, motivate the person to interact with others, alleviate depression, reinforce self-esteem and reestablish motivation.
Types of disorders and conditions that can benefit from pet healing include children with attention deficit order and depressed individuals who need a boost in mood or morale. The act of stroking or petting the animal also makes the person feel less alone. Even the simple act of grooming a cat is a huge step for an individual who is mentally depressed or physically handicapped, but many find the inspiration to exceed their limitations when confronted with a therapy pet.