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How Therapy Cats Can Help Us Get Well

Everyone knows therapeutic riding – just like therapy dogs or dolphin swimming. Many animals have skills that can help us get well again. But can cats do that too?

“Yes, they can,” says Christiane Schimmel. With her cats Azrael, Darwin, and Balduin, she offers cat therapy in rehabilitation clinics and nursing homes. But what does that actually look like? “The therapy is actually done by the cats,” says Schimmel in an interview with DeineTierwelt expert Christina Wolf. “I’m not the therapist, the cats take over.”

Her forms of therapy are primarily about two things: “That people open up or that they remember something beautiful,” says Schimmel. In fact, just playing with a cat can lead to children with mental problems becoming calmer, and residents with dementia in retirement homes can remember events from the past by interacting with the kitties. Stroke patients in rehab can also be helped by petting cats.

The idea behind animal-assisted therapy: animals accept us as we really are. Regardless of health, social status, or appearance – and thus give us the feeling of being accepted and understood.

Who Can Therapy Animals Help?

And that can have positive effects on us humans. Animal-assisted therapy can, for example, evoke positive emotions, lighten the mood, improve social and communication skills, convey self-confidence, resolve fears and reduce feelings such as loneliness, insecurity, anger, and sadness, wrote the “Oxford Treatment Center”, an American rehab clinic, the horses used for therapeutic purposes.

And people with various clinical pictures can benefit from this – for example, people with dementia, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder, and cardiovascular diseases.

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