In part two of our three-part series on service, therapy and emotional support cats, I am proud to introduce you to Raul and his human, Sarah. Raul is a therapy cat. You’ll recall from the first post that a therapy cat provides support, affection and comfort to the individuals in a group or public setting. Unlike service cats, these cats do not enjoy the special privileges that a service animal does. For example, they must be invited into the facility where they are offering their services.
Without further adieux, please meet Sarah and her therapy cat, Raul.
TCT: Sarah, describe Raul’s personality?
Sarah/Raul: He’s very outgoing. He greets people at the door and is always with me and the family. He never likes being away from us.
TCT: What made you first realize that Raul could be a therapy cat?
Sarah/Raul: My teacher friend suggested I bring Raul in to interact with her special needs students and that was the original idea that got me started on the therapy animal path for Raul. Raul has such an amazing personality, I knew he would have a positive experience and so would the children that met him.
TCT: What’s involved in getting certified?
Sarah/Raul: First, I got Raul registered through an organization that works with therapy cats. He needed updated vet records and an experienced animal trainer/handler to evaluate him. The evaluation determines how the animal reacts to sudden noises, aggression and their overall demeanor. They also check to see if I had the ability to handle Raul appropriately should something go wrong. Raul passed with flying colors and the rest is history!
TCT: What kind of work does Raul do?
Sarah/Raul: Raul has many talents, but he most enjoys working with children and helping them become better readers. Reading out loud helps children become better readers, but some kids are fearful of reading out loud, particularly if they are already struggling with reading. Raul lets kids practice reading without the fear of being judged or being embarrassed if they mess up. Raul doesn’t know or care if a mistake is made.
Raul also works with special needs children helping them learn how to interact socially with their environment, and how to pet an animal in an appropriate manner. Raul and I also love to visit the boys and girls club and spend time with all of the kids there… and this summer we partnered with the school district for a program that provided free books and activities to local kids five days a week.
TCT: Has Raul ever worked with adults?
Sarah/Raul: Most recently, Raul was tasked with cheering up an elderly gentleman named Harold, who is living in a nursing home and who has dementia. Harold has been an animal lover his entire life, and was known to take in other people’s pets and strays. When Harold went to live at the nursing home, he was forced to give up his two cats that now live with his daughter. His daughter reached out to my pet therapy group with hopes that a visit from one of the therapy animals might bring a smile back to her father’s face.
Raul was given the assignment and did his job valiantly. He gave a great deal of comfort to Harold. Though Harold’s condition had deteriorated, he was able to pet Raul and the smile his daughter had been hoping to see, returned to his face – even if only for ten minutes… The visit meant the world to both Harold and his daughter. His daughter wrote me and Raul a really beautiful letter thanking us for the visit. It feels great to see the difference Raul makes in people’s lives.
TCT: Where should people go to find more information if they think their cat is suitable for this kind of work?
Sarah/Raul: I’m sure the internet is full of information, but I have personal experience working with Pet Partners and Dogs on Call.
TCT: Do you post about Raul’s adventures so we can keep up?
Sarah/Raul: You can follow Raul’s adventures on his Facebook page or if you’re on Instagram, you can find him @raulthetherapycat
Read about the difference among service cats, therapy cats and emotional support cats.
Read about Symie the Service Cat.