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New Research Explores Cat-Human Bond Impact Therapy

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Cat Person and Pet Partners release research findings supporting the benefits of time spent with cats. The study investigated the unique bond shared between people and their pet cats, highlighting the ways in which therapy cat teams impact their communities through animal-assisted interventions  (AAI) in settings such as hospitals, assisted living communities, and schools. AAI is a goal oriented and structured intervention that intentionally incorporates animals in health, education, and human service for the purpose of therapeutic gains and improved health and wellness. 

Through a combination of survey responses and interviews, participants described the positive impact their cats had on their daily lives. They identified the traits that make their cat the right fit for therapy animal work, as well as the measures they use to protect their cat’s welfare during therapy visits. Participants not only described how they have personally benefited from their relationships with cats, but explained how volunteering with the Pet Partners therapy animal program allowed them to share their love of cats within their communities. In addition, it was found out that volunteering with one’s cat appears to strengthen the cat-owner bond as well as challenges the assumptions and stereotypes some people have about cats and the people who love them. The results of this study suggest that cat-assisted interventions offer benefits for everyone involved.  

“Anecdotally, we’ve always known that people share meaningful relationships with cats, reflected in the number of requests we receive from facilities wanting therapy cat visits. Now we have data to support this belief,” said Taylor Chastain Griffin, PhD, national director of AAI advancement at Pet Partners. “We are excited to have completed, to our knowledge, the most comprehensive study on cats as therapy animals and to share results that call for a greater appreciation of the cat-human bond.” 

Realising that cats have long been underrepresented in research, Cat Person funded this mixed methods’ investigation that included the perspectives of therapy cat handlers as well as representatives from facilities that offer therapy cat visits. “We’re on a mission to care for cats holistically including their reputation and we believe that the historical lack of research about these special beings has contributed to the unfair stereotypes that surround our favourite creatures,” said Meghan Knoll, CEO of Cat Person. “We teamed up with Pet Partners to put data behind what we know to be true: that cats are loving, intuitive beings that improve the mental health and wellness of humans.” 

“It is thrilling to see the results of this study suggesting that animal-assisted interventions with cats is an untapped resource that offers numerous direct and indirect benefits. My hope is that this research serves as a springboard for future studies focused on therapy cat visits an intervention we are just beginning to fully understand and appreciate.” said co-principal investigator of the study, Lori Kogan, PhD.  

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