Why Maine Coons Make the Best Therapy Cats

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • Maine Coons can have the perfect personality to be certified therapy cats.
  • Therapy cats are animals trained to spread joy and comfort to those in need. 
  • They visit nursing homes, hospitals, rehabs and more to provide physical, psychological, and mental benefits.
  • Therapeutic benefits include relief of physical pain and reduced anxiety. The experience can also help depression, PTSD, dementia, and even autism. 
  • The proper paperwork can turn your pet into your emotional support animal.
  • If you think your Maine Coon has what it takes to be a therapy cat, sign up for therapy cat training program.
maine coon therapy cat
Photo via Catza.net

Therapy cats: this topic has been on my mind recently because of the turmoil in the world as of writing this.

Why? Because trauma. With the recent global situation, humans are bound to have psychological trauma, whether in the short term or long term, when we fully live out the implications of this time.

And therapy animals have always been around to help those in need. Sometimes a friendly pet is exactly what you need when hurting inside.

Most therapy animals are dogs, but cats are becoming more popular. Specifically… the Maine Coon!

In this post, you’ll learn why Maine Coons have what it takes to be amazing therapy cats and why I’m qualified to talk about this!

What Are Therapy Cats?

Therapy cats are cats on a mission. Trained cats with a career and a certification.

Their goal is to spread joy and comfort and give people reasons for enjoying life through human to animal contact.

Therapy cats visit places like nursing homes or similar facilities, children’s hospitals, youth detention homes and drug rehabilitation centers.

Many inhabitants used to have their own animals, and this practice can trigger warm memories.

These moments have immeasurable benefits, psychologically and physically.

A visit from a therapy cat cat can take people out of a daily monotony. It can remind them that the world is much more than their suffering or problem.

In other words, therapy cats may offer perspective – a fresh look at life.

Sometimes, that is what someone needs to get back on track… or start that process.

Maine Coons – the Perfect Therapy Cat

Photo via Catza.net

The personality of the Maine Coon makes it perfect therapy cat.

By their nature, Maine Coons are non-aggressive, socially out-going, and affectionate.

And they are big cats! Like dramatically large. Over 20 lb large, possibly. This size makes them so really huggable, like a teddy bear of sorts.

Maine Coons love novel situations, going to interesting places, and meeting brand new people.

That calm confidence of a Maine Coon will come into play when amongst loud children and youths, or shaky elderly folks.

Besides the personality, that Maine Coon intelligence and trainability are real keys for becoming a therapy cat.

This breed spreads joy and wonder because most people in the world have not seen this cat in real life before. At over $1000 for purebred kitten (that will be kept indoors), the cost of a Maine Coon limits its exposure to the world,

Related: An entire post on the Maine Coon cat breed

Therapy cats need to be responsive to basic commands, since we do not want a jumpy therapy cat running around or freaking out all of a sudden in these sensitive environments.

Benefits of a Therapy Cat

Photo via Catza.net

The benefits of a therapy cat cannot be overstated. The right therapy cat is warm and shows affection to those who are in need of comfort.

Locations a therapy cat might visit have people, who despite being in a group, may still feel lonely.

In a nursing home or elder care facility, a cat’s purr at the right frequency is perfect.

This is because it has been linked to bone growth, fracture healing, inflammation, and pain relief!

In a detention home or youth home, interaction with a therapy cat can reduce stress, blood pressure, and heart disease.

In a hospital setting, therapy cats can do everything mentioned above, plus just offer some sunshine through the emotional clouds.

(By the way isn’t it always fun to see the science catch up to what pet owners have always known, right?

Cats enhance your life by decreasing stress and encouraging a healthy lifestyle… we already knew that innately!)

Anxiety

A therapy cat is a chance for true interaction with no barriers. People suffering from anxiety have fear about uncertainty.

A therapy cat and its purr have a calming effect. Even people with social anxiety can play with a cat that won’t judge and is 100% benevolent.

The calming effect is real: cat owners have a 40% less chance of a heart attack!

Depression

Owning a cat improves quality of life and mental health. In these COVID times, pets have helped untold numbers of people get though the pandemic.

A proper therapy cat (or any cat) provides companionship and reduces loneliness, two of the biggest issues with depression.

A therapy cat for people suffering from depression also fits more in line with their lifestyle.

Owning a cat is simply less responsibility and demands less of a person suffering from depression.

Responsibility is not a bad thing, however, as having another creature dependent on you can trigger positive feelings not felt in a long duration.

Autism

An amazing study published in 2018 indicated that having a therapy cat was beneficial to children with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

The authors hypothesized that an affectionate cat encouraged prosocial tendencies in the children.

Having a cat that “belonged” to the children was valuable because it’s a positive relationship…

And could open the door to other relationships, perhaps with family!

Most of the kids responded well to an affectionate cat… some even responded better to the cat than to their parents!

The authors noted – and this is important!

The study has revealed the importance of having a cat that is inherently low in aggression, socially outgoing, and affectionate as a family companion for a child with ASD or that is typically developing.

Affectionate Interactions of Cats with Children Having Autism Spectrum Disorder

I wonder what cat breed have those characteristics in abundance?

PTSD

With Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, the sufferer experiences all this constant anxiety. They’re always in a state of high alert.

Having a cat around to pet, stroke, or just sit next to you has calming benefits as it brings a person back to Earth.

It gets them to focus on the here and now.

And right here, all is fine. The cat is here with you and they’re not afraid. It’s all good.

The purring also promotes healing and reduces stress.

And in your brain, neurotransmitters like seratonin, oxytocin, and dopamine is being released, all of which produces a feeling of well-being and calm.

Dementia

Therapy cats often visit senior care facilities, with residents who have been diagnosed with dementia.

In these facilities, there are daily activities with the aim of giving residents something to look forward to, a purpose for enjoying life, and stimulation.

A visit from a therapy cat is one of best ways to experience the love and companionship of a pet since people cannot own pets in facilities like this.

The activity is low-impact, and people can decide how involved they want to be. Some may welcome the cats into their laps while other prefer to pet and watch.

Either way, the visit sparks feelings of joy and may get people to respond who have not responded to dogs or other activities.

How Do I Get a Therapy Cat?

Photo via Catza.net

Given that certified therapy cats are the product of time, expenses, and training, it’s unlikely you’ll find them for adoption or sale.

Think about it another way: retired show cats often become certified therapy cats after a lifetime of being handled and making people happy.

These cats probably will not be released by owners.

There are, however, three avenues in which you can experience the benefits that a therapy cat brings.

Get Involved Locally

First is to be a part of the facilities and events that working therapy cats already visit on their rotation.

Organizations like Pet Partners is a great resource and where you can find local volunteers and events near you.

They are well known non-profit in this space advocating the use of therapy animals for physical and mental health in people.

Get a Prescription

The second way to get a prescription from a doctor or other health professional for a therapy cat.

Then you adopt a cat from a loving family, credible shelter or humane society.

Now with that letter from a qualified health professional, your cat is now an emotional support animal!

No longer just a house cat, your cat can be with you at in homes or apartments that do not allow regular animals. They will also be able to fly with you on flights to support you.

Emotional support cats do not require special training, per se, so they will not be able to spread the joy they being you to others.

They’re not qualified to a working therapy cat yet. Their main focus is on you.

Visit ESA Doctors to learn more about starting the process of evaluation and diagnosis.

Therapy Cat Training

If you have benefited from a therapy cat yourself or think your cat has what it takes to be certified, the next step is training to bring it to the world.

It’s a voluntary process and driven by a need to help, not profit. Becoming a certified therapy cat is a long time-consuming and can be expensive.

Not all cats make it – there are courses, membership fees, examinations certifications, and of course, the time needed.

Visit Love on a Leash, a national therapy pet training program, for full details! Their mission:

We provide a framework for therapy teams to obtain the necessary training and certification in order to provide joy, warmth and emotional support to others through pet therapy.

Love on a Leash

Top traits required are the ones that Maine Coons have in abundance: laidback, non-aggressive, and loves people while also being trainable.

After graduating from training, then cat and therapist start meeting with people at facilities where the much needed therapy services are required.

These include nursing homes, children’s hospitals, detention centers, elderly care homes, drug and physical rehabilitation centers.

My Experience with a Therapy Cat

My girl, Chelle

What makes me qualified to talk about a topic like therapy cats?

Warning: feelings ahead! Skip this part if you’re not into personal development.

With that out of the way… my Maine Coon was a therapy cat! Now, she isn’t verified and I never trained her or anything.

But as I mentioned in my Silver Maine Coon post, I was working through some depression-related personal issues at the time I picked up Chelle.

(In that post I go pretty deep into what drives potential Maine Coon owners to a certain color or pattern, so check it out if you are in that group!)

This did not mean I was not qualified to raise her, or that she was going to a home that was “missing something.”

If anything, our household was even more qualified to take care of her. We met all the requirements from our breeder and there was lots of love.

My Therapy Cat Story

Anyway, on the car ride home, with my new kitten in her carrier, my heart swelled up. Whether I was ready for it or not, I flew this kitten from another island to me.

I was in charge of her care now. I knew I was walking along my path to getting better then. It sparked dormant feelings of pride and self-worth.

To promise myself and to this little kitten I’d be a better version of myself. So I could be there for her and give her the best life.

Day by day, caring and providing for her, it really built me back up to who I am now. She was a constant positive that followed me around the house.

Who scratched the side of the mattress if I wouldn’t wake up. Who would claw underneath the bathroom door if I was inside too long.

And the funny thing is, after I got better, I noticed she was not as needy anymore.

Now, she is much more aloof and independent. Did her maturing phase just coincide with my figuring my issues out?

I don’t know… but I’m thankful for this amateur therapy cat. There is a dignity with cats not seen in dogs. (who just love you unconditionally – not a bad thing!)

Cats come and go, on their terms. You can try hard to get their attention, but sometimes they just will not come.

But, do the right thing and send out proper good vibes – and they might sit in your lap! Just like with people in your life. But you can’t force it.

You can only work on yourself! I’m trying exceptionally hard to be a model for myself and do hard things in my life to attract those good vibes.

Just so a Maine Coon or the right humans can settle next to me.

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