Thank you for caring about cats and people. The human-animal bond is very special, and bringing that connection to people who need it is truly satisfying. Health benefits associated with animal interactions are well-documented. And that’s great you have a cat you think you can partner with. It’s tough to find a cat who has the personality to do visits: traveling, friendliness, health, and a calm and tolerant attitude. It took me 5 years of fostering to find Tinkerbelle.
There are very few cats in the Pet Partners program – in Portland there are only 3 that I know of. It’s easy to want to overwork your cat but in Pet Partners we learn to put the animal first. Always.
I started thinking about bringing cats to the catless when my parents moved into assisted living. They’d always had cats, but when their Paddy crossed Beyond, they decided not to adopt again. I would take my kitty, Graywood, for unofficial visits. When I left the facility, the residents would crowd around to say hi. Even the dog-people. Just having an animal they could touch and pet created a lasting sense of well-being.
My parents are gone now, joining their many cats across the Rainbow Bridge, but I feel their presence every time Tinkerbelle and I visit someone, and I see their eyes light up with furry love.
I’ve included some notes and links from the Pet Partner’s official website, the best place to get information on how to apply. There is a lot to it: training and a test as well as a fee which provides teams with, among other benefits, insurance in case there is a problem in a public facility. These days of everyone suing their little hearts out at the drop of a hat, I think that’s worth every penny. There are other groups besides Pet Partners that provide animal-assisted interaction such as Love On A Leash. Also some facilities don’t require registration at all. Pet Partners, formerly the Delta Society, is an old and respected group, and I personally think their training is invaluable.
From the website: “Welcome to Pet Partners
Pet Partners is the national leader in demonstrating and promoting positive human-animal therapy, activities and education. Nearly forty years since the organization’s inception, the science that proves these benefits has become indisputable. Today, Pet Partners is the nation’s largest and most prestigious nonprofit registering handlers of multiple species as volunteer teams providing animal-assisted interactions.
Therapy Animal Program
Pet Partners teams interact with a wide variety of clients including veterans with PTSD, seniors living with Alzheimer’s, students with literacy challenges, patients in recovery, people with intellectual disabilities and those approaching end of life. The impact of these interactions is felt one million times a year. Pet Partners’ curriculum and continuing education for licensed instructors, evaluators and handlers is the gold standard in the field.
People and animal volunteer teams are the heart and soul of Pet Partners’ Therapy Animal Program. Therapy animals aren’t just dogs. Cats, horses, rabbits, pigs, birds, llamas and alpacas, guinea pigs and even rats are eligible for evaluation through the Pet Partners program.
Living outside the USA?
We encourage those living internationally and wishing to become a therapy animal team to contact the International Association of Human-Animal Interaction Organizations (IAHAIO) at http://www.iahaio.org. At this time we are continuing to work with existing groups in Canada, but are not adding new teams in other countries.”
“The Pet Partners Therapy Animal Program enables pet owner volunteers to provide services to people in their own communities while spending quality time with their pets.
Step 1: Train the ‘Human-End’ of the Leash by attending a Pet Partners’ Therapy Animal Handler Course either in-person or online.
Step 2: Have the Health of Your Therapy Animal Screened by a Veterinarian.
Step 3: Have Your Human-Animal team’s Skills & Aptitude Evaluated.
Step 4: Submit Your Registration Application.”
Pet Partners is the leader in promoting and demonstrating that positive human–animal interactions improve the physical, emotional and psychological lives of those we serve.”