If the world is really divided into dogs and cats, then so be it felinotherapy equivalent to dog therapy. The idea of treating people in contact with animals has a long tradition, but purring therapists are a relatively new and very dynamic trend. What is the difference between the joy of owning your own cat and professional felinotherapy?
- History of felin therapy
- What is felin therapy?
- Applications of felin therapy
- How is felin therapy performed?
- Contraindications and risks when using felin therapy
- Who is felin therapy for?
Cats are believed to have been domesticated 9,000 years ago. house cat (Felis catus) probably comes from a Nubian cat, and today it has more than seventy different breeds. According to the International League of Nature, it is even an invasive species because it has no natural enemies and hunts when it is not needed because it is supplied with food by its servant. As a result, the natural ecosystem is often disturbed. Can felin therapy be a way to restore the very intense image of “crunches”?
History of felin therapy
It seems that cats, like ruthless rodent hunters, have long won the hearts of people, not only for practical reasons. The remains of a man with a cat were found in one of the tombs in Cyprus in 7500 BC. The Egyptians especially valued furry quadrupeds, considering them to be magical creatures that brought happiness and prosperity to their homes. Even after his death, they were mummified like humans!
Its widespread use for therapeutic purposes did not develop until the XIX century. One of its predecessors was the famous Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern medicine. He found that psychiatric patients who came in contact with small animals were less anxious and recovered more effectively. In the 20th century, most of the research and observations in the field of animal therapy focused on dogs, but in recent decades there has been a significant increase in the popularity of feline therapy. Brazilian psychiatrist Nice da Silveyra is considered a harbinger of this trend, which strongly opposes the acute treatment of patients in hospitals. As part of the experiment, he presented one cat to his ward and, seeing the interest of the patients, presented them with four more cats. His observations became the basis for research on the reliability of felin therapy in the treatment of mental disorders.
What is felin therapy?
Cat owners are usually a walking advertisement for the benefits of contact with this independent, wise and friendly animal. However, felin therapy goes beyond the classic framework of owning a pet – its idea is to solve very specific health problems through specially selected and trained cats. The most suitable breeds are Ragdoll, Maine Coun, Siamese and Persian and American Shorthair cats. However, the origin is not everything – a cat therapist should be characterized by a stable temperament, tolerance to unusual stimuli and openness to contact with people, especially strangers. Ideally, if you are not afraid of other animals, especially dogs, which are often inseparable companions of patients. In addition, therapist candidates are required to have no history of aggression, be accustomed to trailers and belts, and have good toilet habits.
Cats also need to be properly trained for feline therapy. Not only the animal but also the owner participates in the training – cooperation in this area is very important for the effectiveness of therapy. In Poland, there are already funds that check the readiness of the duo and issue appropriate approvals.
According to proponents of felinotherapy, the mere intimacy of a cat – its warmth, softness and soothing murmur – is an extremely positive psychological stimulus that can turn directly into a physical sphere. A study published in the Journal of Vascular and Interventional Neurology in 2009 found that happy cat owners had a lower risk of heart attack or stroke!
But if keeping a cat at home is enough, why do we need special felinotherapy? Unfortunately, not everyone is able to look after an animal, and cat therapists have exceptional patience and desire to interact with humans.
Ragdoll is a particularly appreciated breed of therapeutic cats. Source: shutterstock
Applications of felin therapy
Observations show that the mere presence of a cat in a person’s apartment can have a positive effect on well-being – first of all, it alleviates the feeling of loneliness, which affects a large part of society and is attractive. People begin to feel a duty and a desire in general to look at them, play and feel elegant. For people who are passive or depressed, this can be a stimulus to be active, which has a beneficial effect on both physical and mental areas.
Cats barking is a very important element of felin therapy. They generate vibrations with a frequency of 20 to 150 Hz, have been scientifically proven to support bone growth and renewal, as well as improve the condition of joints and ligaments. In the same way, cat murmurs can reduce the risk of developing high blood pressure and heart disease. It is believed that the human body begins to produce oxytocin and endorphins, which lower blood pressure and lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels as a result of caressing and even the touch of a furry animal.
Regular contact with cats also accelerates the healing process of tissues. The higher body temperature of the animal stimulates blood circulation and can actively relieve pain or spasms. In addition, it has been suggested that it can have a positive effect on the immune system. Therefore, felin therapy is recommended as a form of recovery after illness and surgery, as well as a valuable rehabilitation tool for physical and mental disabilities.
How is felin therapy performed?
Feline therapy is a strictly structured type of rehabilitation involving a trained cat, its caregiver, and the patient. The presence of other people is also allowed and sometimes even required, for example, for children who are afraid of a new environment or for people with mental disabilities.
Many cat therapists live permanently in hospitals, nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, orphanages and hospices. Other animals live with trainers and guardians and go to patients’ homes or appropriate facilities for sessions. In the United States, felin therapy is performed, for example, in kindergartens, schools and prisons.
The session itself can be very different depending on the needs of the patient. Commonly used therapeutic methods include:
- to inspire children to take care of animals and to express the emotional relationships of four-legged friends through art (art therapy);
- encourage older people to pick up, caress, and hug cats;
- heating the patient’s body in close contact with the cat;
- simple games with a cat, for example, using a wool ball.
Table showing the benefits of felin therapy; own education
Contraindications and risks when using felin therapy
An obvious contraindication to feline therapy is cat allergies. It is a good idea to do allergy tests in this area before starting treatment, as a person who has never lived with a cat may not even know about the risk of allergens that can cause anaphylactic shock in the most severe cases. However, allergic symptoms can be more subtle and can lead to, for example, sinusitis.
In addition, cat classes are not necessarily recommended for people who feel disgusted or afraid of the meowing of quadrupeds, as well as for patients with uncontrolled aggression against animals. The well-being of a pet is an extremely important decision criterion!
Older people can also benefit from contact with cats. Source: shutterstock
Who is felin therapy for?
Felinotherapy is, above all, an excellent offer for people who do not like dogs, have allergies or are afraid. In many cases, the large size and limited mobility of the cat is an important advantage that is appreciated by patients in isolated or small settlements. The advantage is also the absence of tiring palms, which have a more calming effect, and a lower level of activity. In particular, they are a valuable form of mental, emotional and physical rehabilitation. They accelerate the recovery process or slow down the progression of chronic degenerative diseases, as well as limitations associated with the aging process. Felin therapy is also a great alternative for people suffering from mental disorders – from stress and ADHD to severe forms of depression!
Ekologia.pl (Agata Pavlinec)
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