4 Reasons Cats Are Perfect Therapy Animals For PTSD (And Other Mental Disorders)
A quick "cats for PTSD" Google search reveals a drastic dearth in results, compared to the more commonly searched query "dogs for PTSD."
While the cat-related query returns website headlines such as Can Cats Get PTSD on the first results page, the latter dog-related query returns headlines lauding service dogs for PTSD (e.g. Apply for a PTSD Dog | PAALS).
In today's zeitgeist, dogs are more well-known for their therapeutic and functional services than cats.
Perhaps it's true cats aren't as easy to train as dogs, and aren't able to perform public services, but that doesn't mean they can't provide deeply therapeutic support!
Here are four reasons cats are awesome as therapy and emotional support animals.
1. Cats won't take your bullshit
Cats demand respect and are notorious for acting aloof and unimpressed. While cats can be affectionate and playful, they will also make it abundantly clear when they want a certain human behavior to stop, and when they want alone time.
The therapeutic value: your relationship with your feline friend will be built upon a foundation of respect and consideration.
By owning a therapy cat, there will be plenty of opportunities to learn about boundaries. In psychotherapy, boundaries are one of the most important concepts therapists teach clients.
2. Cats show owners a particularly unique side
Cats, more so than dogs, will be more wary of strangers and new scents, because they are both prey and predator in the wild. This means you'll form a unique bond with your cat, and they'll make you feel special during one on one time. It's kind of like individual therapy—a statement I make in jest.
Alone time with your cat is absolutely no substitute for psychotherapy with a trained professional. But in the grand scheme of things, weekly time spent in the presence of a therapist is nominal. So for all those times you find yourself dealing with psychological hardship, while not sitting safely on your therapist's couch, your cat can be there for you and provide the emotional solace you need.
3. Earning their trust feels so special
Cat's rarely trust new owners and environments immediately. As an owner, you need to earn your cat's trust over time. This happens slowly and requires vigilance, mindfulness, and adaptation to cat's behavior. Little by little, though, you'll earn their trust.
Brick by brick, and your cat will soon become your steadfast Rome.
Once your cat trusts you, the bond you'll share will be deeply unique and ineffably remarkable. Together, you'll learn nuanced ways to communicate, resulting in intimate comradeship experienced solely between you two beings.
In times of mental distress, this exclusive bond will provide the comfort and unconditional love you need in order to feel a little more at ease.
4. Cats are low maintenance vs. dogs
Imagine being in the midst of hours-long PTSD flashbacks or in the throes of a deep depressive state, then realizing you need to take your dog outside STAT. The signals are clear: they need to be walked or answer nature's call.
Suddenly, you have a responsibility to take action, else there'll be exasperating consequences to deal with.
Maybe I'm selfish, but that sure isn't a burden I'd want to bear. Especially during an intense PTSD episode.
Dogs require different types of training and behavior maintenance—and lots of it. It's no secret they're high maintenance companions.
Cats, on the other hand, are easy. As long as you're a chill owner, they rarely need house training. Toys, scratching posts, hiding spots, treats, regular food, and clean water are the minimum requirements for care.
And it would be remiss of me to fail to highlight the star of the care show: The Litter Box.
Cat's don't need to be taught to use the litter box. They just instinctively know. There's interesting science behind it: litter boxes are designed to exploit cats' natural instincts of wanting to bury their business.
The low maintenance qualities and oftentimes independent temperament of cats are, in my experience, some of the most desirable aspects of owning a cat for therapeutic purposes.
Of course, I recognize people are different. Maybe the constant demands associated with dog ownership provide effective distractions and healing value for someone suffering from a mental disorder.
Whatever works, really. I'm not here to judge.
If you're looking for a therapeutic companion who won't exhaust you or demand too much attention and time, cats are a perfect candidate.
I have professionally diagnosed PTSD, and since adopting my 3 year old cat, my quality of life improved drastically.
Do you suffer from PTSD or another mental disorder, and have a therapy animal? If so, leave a comment and share your story!
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