Tracy enjoys volunteering with her two Therapy Cats Roger and Sal and wishes that other cat owners would join her.
In this 39th episode of Therapy Dog Talk, I spoke with Tracy about what it’s like to volunteer with her two Therapy Cats, Roger and Sal through Pet Partners. That’s right, hold on to your pups because this week we’re talking felines.
“But Sherrie, this is Therapy DOG Talk!”
Don’t worry friend, we will get back to dogs next week.
While Sunny is my pet that you probably know the best, if you follow her on Instagram you likely know that she has an older cat sister—Matilda, who is 16. What you may not know is that Matilda freelanced as a Therapy Cat for my mom when she was on hospice. She is far too unreliable to do volunteer pet therapy for others; however, my lifelong love of cats did prime me for many of the cat-specific questions for Tracy, such as:
“What do you do about their tiny paw knives?”
Tracy calls these “murder mittens” or “making biscuits,” and it turns out that she doesn’t have to worry about them as her cats were raised by dogs and are natural at therapy work. In fact, Roger loves pet therapy work so much that he saves almost all of his purrs for volunteering. Lucky for him, Tracy doesn’t take it too personal.
In a world full of volunteer Therapy Dogs, Tracy has found that being a Therapy Cat team helps them to stand out in a crowd and to brighten the days of cat lovers in hospice and at the local children’s hospital. It’s her hope that other cat owners will recognize their feline’s potential and help Roger and Sal to spread the joy to those who need it.
If you’re ready to hear what it’s like to volunteer with a cat, or two, let’s dive in:
In this episode, we discuss …
- How being raised by a dog made Roger a natural at pet therapy.
- What the requirements are for volunteering with a cat through Pet Partners.
- What to look for in a cat to know if they would enjoy, and be suitable for, pet therapy.
Key moments you won’t want to miss:
- [01:32] Tracy introduces us to her three cats including her two Therapy Cats, Roger and Sal.
- [02:24] Tracy mentions that as far as she knows Pet Partners is the only national organization that register cats.
- [02:56] Roger’s early days of being raised by a dog and her friend.
- [03:52] How Tracy found out about Therapy Cats from her boss who’s wife worked for Hospice of the Valley.
- [04:22] How the Pet Partners evaluation differs for cats as opposed to dogs and what they require.
- [05:08] We talk leash training for cats and the harness requirement for volunteering.
- [05:47] Tracy shares how Roger is into “the healing power of purrs” and saves them all for the hospital.
- [06:28] Where Sal and Roger volunteer with Tracy and who they’re registered with.
- [07:03] Tracy’s surprise about how few Therapy Cats there are—Pet Partners told her there are 140 in the US.
- [07:43] We talk about why not many cats volunteer and the myth that you can’t train a cat.
- [08:36] Roger has been so easy to train that Tracy feels her biggest downfall is not having advice on how to train.
- [08:52] We discuss Tracy’s plan to become an evaluator for Pet Partners.
- [09:33] Tracy shares what she enjoys about volunteering with her cats at the children’s hospital and in hospice.
- [10:02] The ease of starting conversations due to the niche of working with cats.
- [10:42] We talk tiny paw knives, making biscuits, and Roger not being “a big murder mittens guy.”
- [12:06] Tracy shares how she cares Roger for the full two hours which can be hard for her back. Sal walks.
- [13:17] Tracy’s advice to check out other opportunties for volunteering with animals and recommends roles such as escorting other pet therapy teams to get a feel for what is involved in the work.
- [15:10] A quick shout out to previous guest Cheyanne who volunteers with Tracy at Phoenix Children’s and ASU.
- [15:41] Tracy shares a special memory from her first year of volunteering in hospice with Roger.
- [16:52] Her opportunity to surprise a little girl at the children’s hospital who wanted to meet the Therapy Cats.
- [18:25] Tracy mentions how most hospitals don’t allow cats due to concerns about housetraining cats as well as the disease toxoplasmosis that can come from cat litter but shares how she accounts for these risks by not visiting immunocompromised children while they are volunteering.
I hope you enjoy this episode as much as I do. Give it a listen and let me know which part you found the most helpful!
Mentioned in this episode:
- ASU Sun Devil PAWS Therapy
- Cheyanne + Tiana
- Hospice of the Valley Arizona
- Pet Partners
- Phoenix Children’s
- Soft Paws
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