Piglet the Therapy CatPublished February 13, 2012
Flickr User David_Howell
Even though therapy cats are not as commonplace, there are a growing number of certified therapy cats working today. Ask any cat lover about the benefits they get from their kitties and they will tell you there is nothing quite as relaxing as the sound of a cat purring.
Petting a cat has medical benefits, including lowering blood pressure, easing chronic pain, reducing anxiety and bolstering the immune system.
So let’s introduce Piglet, a lavender "hairless" Sphynx who lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado. She is one of the few certified therapy cats registered in the state. Based on her unusual appearance, some folks think she resembles E.T. Sometimes she is even mistaken for a Chihuahua. Debbi Polelli, a County Environmental Health Specialist, is her owner and handler.
While watching a TV show about therapy animals, Debbi, who adopted the Sphynx, immediately thought Piglet’s personality was suited perfectly for work as a therapy cat. So after she completed a two-day animal assisted therapy training workshop (that at the time was sponsored by the American Humane Association), Piglet and Polelli were evaluated and certified.
To ensure Piglet stays warm while making her therapeutic rounds in hospitals, nursing homes and care clinics, Debbi frequently dresses her in a sweater along with a therapy jacket. It is rumored that this feline therapist has a wardrobe that rivals any fashion queen. Piglet has many fans at Village at Skyline, a nursing home she often visited. Residents are thrilled when Lindsey Roberts, a Skyline activity assistant, announces Piglet is in the house.
But what make her visits very special to the folks that interact with her are the memories of their beloved pets she evokes.
These visits have many emotional, physical and social benefits, according to Delta Pet therapy instructor Kathleen Kelley. She said, "The animals can take a patient's mind off pain, provide comfort and even boost the immune system."
But these animals benefit not only nursing home and hospital patients. They are also valuable therapy adjuncts in special needs programs, veterans groups, schools and juvenile correction facilities. Since animals are non-judgmental and offer unconditional love, they become trusted friends with whom they feel sufficiently comfortable to interact. Polelli herself is sometimes moved to tears when she watches so many good things happening. And, much like health care professionals who seek continuing education, Piglet’s training goes on. She can now walk through an agility tunnel to touch a stick to get a treat. She is even learning to give a “high five”.
Does your pet qualify to be a therapy animal? Learn how to get your pet certified as a therapy animal.
What do you think about Piglet and her work as a therapy cat? Share your thoughts about therapy animals in a comment.