Therapy Cats In Training

cheddar-brie-jan-2014-smlRobin attended a class yesterday to prepare her to become a therapy animal handler. She learned about the local organization she joined, Therapy Animals of San Antonio, and about Pet Partners. The point of the class was to show future handlers what will be expected of them and their animals when they are evaluated for behavior and aptitude to make visits. The curriculum included other aspects of preparation to become a therapy animal as well, like health check-up with a veterinarian and grooming concerns.

We know some therapy dogs and handlers, and Robin helps out with dogs who are working for Canine Good Citizen certification, so we were pretty clear about the requirements for dogs. We had read a run-through of the behavior and aptitude evaluation for cats, but Robin discovered that she had some misconceptions about what cats do in their evaluation.

First, she thought that although she could carry a kitty for part of the test, the kitty would still need to demonstrate sit, down, stay, come, and walk on the leash. Boy, was she off the mark!

Any of us who decide to get evaluated don’t have to worry about all those commands. The evaluators will check how Robin carries us around and how we accept her putting us on other people’s laps, whether we’ll stay on someone else’s lap for 30 seconds and how we deal with a few people wanting to pet us all at once. Through all of this, we stay in Robin’s arms, a sling or some kind of basket. We also get to stay up in her arms when the neutral dog comes in the room. The experienced evaluator told her that the cat being evaluated and the neutral dog often don’t even notice each other!

We do have to leave her arms for the evaluator to check our ears, paws and basic grooming. They will probably jostle us a bit, but who hasn’t been jostled by the veterinarian?

When we’re done with everything else, the evaluator will offer us a treat. Chances are pretty good that we will not actually TAKE it, but the point is really to see if Robin can instruct a person to offer a treat on a flat hand. We don’t get marked down if we don’t take the treat, thank goodness.

Although I don’t at all want to go out of the house for visits, Robin thinks a number of us might be interested in helping out some humans and representing as ambassadors for cats in public. Cheddar is preparing now and will likely take the evaluation in June. Since kitties don’t have to walk into the room on their own, Brie will probably do well, too, Robin thinks. Therapy animals need to be at least 1, so they have a few months to prepare.

As you can see from the picture, Brie and Cheddar are ready for the lap sitting questions.

2 thoughts on “Therapy Cats In Training

  1. Oh I am so happy to hear this! I know Phoebe would be excited and as she always believed the Cheeses were special, and meant to become part of your family- especially with a human Mom like Robin. I often thought Phoebe would have been a great therapy pet, but her chronic health issues made it impossible. I look forward to following the progress of those of you who decide to be evaluated and take part in such giving and healing work. I know Ms. Phoebe will be watching over you too, and have no doubt you will do her and Robin proud.

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