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Any pet owner who has felt the comforting rub and purr of their cat after a hard day at work already knows the benefits of cat therapy, but the health benefits of owning pets actually has scientific proof.
Studies comparing the health of pet owners versus non-pet owners has shown that people who own cats typically have a longer life expectancy, lower stress levels and reduced risk of heart disease. In fact, people who have been raised with cats have stronger immune systems and over 30 percent less chance of having a heart attack or stroke than those who have never owned a pet!
Although the specific reasons as to why cat therapy is so effective at lowering stress and improving general well-being are unknown, theories focus on the soothing repetitive action of stroking coupled with cats' calming, steady purr. It seems that making our cats happy is actually what makes us healthier too.
Special therapy cats are even used in hospitals and care centres to lift spirits and pass on the “good vibes” which can aid in recovery.
How to Train Therapy cats
Could your cat be a therapy cat? A lot depends on your cat's personality. Good therapy cats are naturally calm, enjoy lots of attention and don't startle easily. Training your cat will involve getting it used to being handled by different people, ensuring that it will travel comfortably and desensitising it to sudden noises.
Passing on the therapeutic benefits of your cat by training them to be a therapy cat is not only a rewarding experience for you, but one that your cat will likely enjoy too.
For more information about therapy cats in the UK, visit http://www.petsastherapy.org/.
Angela Neal is a writer, editor and online consultant based in Scotland. She previously was a contributor to Petside.co.uk.