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Volunteering with your cat as a Therapy Team is a rewarding way to make a difference in the lives of hospital patients, nursing home residents and even neighbors who aren’t as mobile as they used to be.
TICA is the first cat registry where teams of cats and owners can earn titles, certificates, and badges for their feline by registering as a Therapy Cat and volunteering as a team.
Once your cat has met the requirements and is registered as a Therapy Cat by a TICA approved organization, such as Pet Partners, your team can earn 3 levels of titles based on approved visits made.
While the emphasis is on helping others, along the way you’ll end up making new friends, and earn an invaluable sense of accomplishment.
Check to see if your cat meets the current behavior/health requirements: https://petpartners.org/volunteer
Take a Handler Course to learn the responsibilities of a successful volunteer: https://petpartners.org/volunteer/become-a-handler/
Are you interested, but not sure if you and your cat are the right fit? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions for more details:
How do I know if my cat is the right fit for therapy work?
Therapy cats range from household cats to pedigreed cats, but the single most important characteristic of a therapy cat is its temperament. A good therapy cat must be very friendly, patient, confident, gentle at all times, and at ease in any situation. Therapy cats must also enjoy contact with adults, as well as children, and be content with being petted and sometimes handled clumsily.
What are the health requirements for my cat?
Since therapy cats often work with people who are ill or otherwise immune compromised, therapy cats must be up to date on vaccinations and be on a routine annual exam schedule. A screening form must be signed by your veterinarian to confirm that your cat is healthy and able to participate in the program.
Once registered, what opportunities will my cat and I have for visits?
Therapy cats provide affection and comfort to people in retirement homes, nursing homes, hospices, schools, and other human service care facilities. Not only do they provide comfort, they can also lower blood pressure, help people feel safe and relieve loneliness and depression. Visit Pet Partners calendar of volunteering events.
What benefits have cats been found to offer patients?
Therapy cats have been used to help kids with developmental disorders like autism be more comfortable and have also been found to stimulate both memory and forgotten emotions in Alzheimer’s and dementia patients. Other benefits have included strengthened fine muscle skills and enhanced hand-eye coordination from brushing and a decrease in blood pressure when being held.
Can my kids go on visits with me and my cat?
Yes, the person handling the animal must be at least 10 years old. Those younger than 16 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian and must have written permission to participate from their parent or guardian.
How do I get started?
Team registration is the process you and your cat will go through to demonstrate that you are both suitable and prepared for therapy animal work. Once you and your cat have met the requirements and registered as a Therapy Cat with a TICA approved organization, such as Pet Partners, your team can begin volunteering. Download the Volunteering with Your Cat TICA Therapy Cat Program Brochure to learn more.
Read about Gwyneth Hayes and learn how her four therapy cats and participation in TICA’s Therapy Cat Title Program make a difference to those in need.
Gwyneth, who lives in Pennsylvania, has had 6 cats through the years doing therapy work. Ranging from an Abyssinian with a set of wheels to several failed feral cats, her cats help share love and joy wherever they go. Gwyneth currently has 4 therapy cats involved in the TICA Therapy Cat Title Program.
Gwyneth Hayes is the owner of Bear, a purebred rescue American Bobtail, who began as a therapy cat with the American Red Cross in their Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) program in 2009 and then transitioned to Caring Hearts Pet Therapy when the AAT program was dissolved in 2015. To get him used to all the handling and noise, he first began as a show cat in TICA and successfully became a Supreme. Bear enjoys quiet laps with his "ladies" at many of the homes we visit. He also does well with end of life transitioning.
Gwyneth's cat Chase, also an American Bobtail, first began showing in 2012. He was a therapy cat with the Red Cross when he turned a year old, long before he became a TICA Supreme. Chase also transitioned from the AAT program to Caring Hearts in 2015. He enjoys doing tricks, including showing the difference in his left and right paws, Shamoo, "kisses" and also taking a treat from my lips to name a few. He really enjoys doing tricks with younger people, especially those on the Autism Spectrum and at our local Ronald McDonald House.
Darius, also an American Bobtail, began his career in the show ring in 2014 and got his TICA Supreme days before his first birthday and received his title as a Caring Hearts Pet Therapy Volunteer on his birthday. Gwyneth says many of the kids at the Ronald McDonald House call him Big D or Fluffy. He is the proverbial favorite and everyone wants to take him home. Darius loves to love everyone and has no qualms who he visits as long as he is being loved on. He can do a few tricks, which makes the residents fawn all the more over him.
Phil is a non-pedigree Household Pet that came off the streets in 2015 at around the age of 1.5 years. He had suffered great trauma and was not supposed to be around to return to his colony. Fate brought him to Gwyneth and you would never guess that he had the rough start that he had. Phil is also missing his left hind leg. This breaks down many barriers with patients in rehab centers that have given up. Phil shares his zest and love for life with all that he meets. Phil is also a TICA Supreme and helps educate people on trap-neuter-return and love.
RW SGC Sarajen OliverUnderfoot of Maggismaines is a black silver Maine Coon owned by Margaret Sutherland of Georgia. Oliver is a therapy cat who seems to know exactly who needs attention and love.
This particular visit (pictured left) was breathtaking. Maggie sat in a chair with Oliver on her lap and asked this lady if she would like to pet him. As you can see, both of her hands were badly injured. She said, "Yes, but I don't know how I can?" At that moment, Oliver walked off of Maggie's lap and into hers and laid down.
Oliver uses his healing powers to help people feel better. He can assist in physical rehab by helping with manual dexterity. For example, it is much more appealing to pet or brush a pet using those muscles instead of squeezing a ball.
A huge thank you to Margaret Sutherland who presented the proposal for Therapy Cat Titles to TICA in 2013.