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Cats As Therapy Pets

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A 21-pound orange tabby cat is being registered as a therapy pet after saving his owner's life -- just hours after he was adopted. 
 
Amy Jung and her son Ethan impulsively adopted the cat, Pudding, and his friend Wimsy after stopping to play with the cats at their local Humane Society in Sturgeon, Wisconsin. Pudding earned his welcome just hours after settling into his new home, when Jung, who has suffered from diabetes since childhood, began to have a diabetic seizure in her sleep.
 
Pudding sat on her chest, nudging and nipping at her face until she woke up. She briefly regained consciousness, but couldn't summon Ethan. Pudding again played Superman, pouncing on the boy, who then woke up and called for help.
 
Jung -- and her doctors -- don't think she would have survived the night if not for Pudding's heroics. He's since learned to sit by Jung's feet and meow when he senses that her blood sugar is low.
A 21-pound orange tabby cat is being registered as a therapy pet after saving his owner's life -- just hours after he was adopted. 
 
Amy Jung and her son Ethan impulsively adopted the cat, Pudding, and his friend Wimsy after stopping to play with the cats at their local Humane Society in Sturgeon, Wisconsin. Pudding earned his welcome just hours after settling into his new home, when Jung, who has suffered from diabetes since childhood, began to have a diabetic seizure in her sleep.
 
Pudding sat on her chest, nudging and nipping at her face until she woke up. She briefly regained consciousness, but couldn't summon Ethan. Pudding again played Superman, pouncing on the boy, who then woke up and called for help.
 
Jung -- and her doctors -- don't think she would have survived the night if not for Pudding's heroics. He's since learned to sit by Jung's feet and meow when he senses that her blood sugar is low.

Cats As Therapy Pets
 
Though dogs historically have a knack for sensing impending seizures, the behavior is much rarer in cats. TheCatSite.com offers some background on and benefits of therapy cats:
 
  • Cats should become used to traveling in a crate, being in unfamiliar places, handled by strangers and be comfortable around dogs starting at a very early age.
  • Cats are less likely to startle over a wheelchair or IV pole than dogs so concentrate on your cat's people skills. One way to begin is to visit a facility and study the layout. Listen for odd noises like the PA system squeaking, being too loud or the lunch trays bouncing as the cart rolls over tiled floors. There may be balloons from a party or children visiting Grandma. Your cat should be comfortable in all situations.
  • Always use a harness and leash. A collar can be grabbed and twisted—a harness won't choke your cat before you can untangle clutching hands.
  • Your priority is your cat's safety. Activities directors, aides, teachers—their responsibility is the resident, patient, child. Ask for someone to accompany you while visiting. If a resident falls, it is not your place to try to get them back into a wheelchair. You are not trained. Get your cat (and yourself) out of the way and let the employees take care of any problem. In the car, your cat should be crated for her safety and yours. Have your cat microchipped.
  • Keep your visits short at first—thirty minutes or less. As your cat gets used to the facility, extend your time gradually, up to an hour. The facility will try to talk you into longer visits but, as always, your first priority is your cat's well being.
  • If your cat will wear a scarf or hat, a little vest, or tiara, it's a sure attention getter. Make costumes seasonal—it will spark memories. It's hard to strike up a conversation with a stranger but a holiday scarf or fireworks vest will give you a place to start.
  • Working in a hospital or nursing home can be stressful. Doctors and nurses look forward to a visit as much as patients and residents. Be sure to stop by the nurse's station to say hi and ask if anyone needs a special visit or should be skipped that day.
  • Nursing home residents may ask to hold your cat. For all concerned, it is best for you to hold and let them pet her. An easy solution that preserves the resident's dignity is to have your cat's special blanket along. Put the blanket on the resident's lap and then, holding the cat, put her front paws on the blanket. If your cat jumps, the back claws won't touch the resident.
 
For more information on therapy pets, go to http://www.loveonaleash.org, http://www.deltasociety.org or your local Humane Society. 
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