Cats as Excellent Therapists: Introducing Their Healing Power

Cats as Excellent Therapists: Introducing Their Healing Power


When it comes to animal therapy, dogs and dolphins are well-known, but cats also play an active role as excellent therapists in various settings.

The mere presence of cats, which can heal by just being there, brings vitality and smiles to many people.

In this article, we will introduce the effects of cat therapy and the unique healing power of cats.


Table of Contents

1. What is Animal Therapy?
∟1-1. Types of Animal Therapy
∟1-2. Effects of Animal Therapy
2. Scenes Where Therapy Cats Shine
∟2-1. Nursing Homes
∟2-2. Care for Children with Autism
∟2-3. Hospitals
3. What is the Healing Power of Cats?
∟3-1. They Don't Startle People
∟3-2. Comfortable to Hold
∟3-3. Independent Nature


1. What is Animal Therapy?


First, let's briefly introduce animal therapy.

Academically, animal therapy is called 'Animal Assisted Interventions (AAI)'.

It refers to all interventions that incorporate animals when assisting the physical and mental health of humans.


1-1. Types of Animal Therapy

[1] Animal Assisted Activities (AAA)

These activities involve interaction with animals aimed at emotional stability and improvement of Quality of Life (QOL). Most activities known as 'animal therapy' fall under this category.

[2] Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT)

These activities aim to enhance the effects of treatment and care through interaction with animals.

[3] Animal Assisted Education (AAE)

This involves activities aimed at nurturing children's hearts by introducing animals into educational settings like elementary schools.


1-2. Effects of Animal Therapy

Animal therapy is known to have the following effects:

[1] Physiological Effects

Interacting with animals can lead to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and aid in disease recovery. Caring for animals, like petting or brushing them, can also contribute to neurological and muscular rehabilitation.

[2] Psychological Effects


Relaxing with animals reduces anxiety, and restores confidence and motivation. It also nurtures a sense of the importance of life, self-esteem, and responsibility.

[3] Social Effects

Communicating through animals can lead to language activation.


2. Scenes Where Therapy Cats Shine


Laid-back and whimsical, cats use their characteristics to heal both body and mind in various settings.

We will introduce some typical scenarios and effects where therapy cats play an active role.


2-1. Nursing Homes

For elderly residents of nursing homes, especially those with dementia, therapy cats have a positive impact on both mind and body.

Living in a nursing home can become monotonous over time, leading to decreased motivation to move or communicate with others.

As a result, daily life becomes challenging, leading to anxiety and frustration, which can destabilize mental health.

Talking to therapy cats or sharing memories of previously owned cats can increase conversation and facilitate communication with others.

Petting or holding cats can also activate the brain and bring peace of mind.

The Ministry of the Environment is considering a project to provide cats and dogs rescued by municipalities to special nursing homes and hospitals.

Such activities are expected not only to heal patients' minds and bodies but also to expand the 'fields of activity' for rescued dogs and cats.


2-2. Care for Children with Autism

Cats are also expected to have a wonderful effect on the care of children with autism.

The reason is that cats, with their slow movements and quietness, do not intimidate children with autism, who often have sensory sensitivities.

Another reason is cats' disinterest in eye contact, which contrasts with dogs, who seek to understand their human companions' intentions and commands through eye contact.

For children with autism, who may find eye contact challenging, dogs' earnest gaze can be burdensome.

However, cats avoid eye contact, interpreting it as a sign of hostility, which can be preferable for children with autism.

Cats offer companionship without demanding social connections or verbal communication, simply being there and deepening bonds quietly.

This presence of cats may rescue children with autism from loneliness and bring them peace.


2-3. Hospitals

Therapy cats also play a role in hospitals, healing people's minds and bodies.

When humans and animals interact, both secrete 'oxytocin', known as the 'love hormone' or 'bonding hormone', which is said to reduce stress and anxiety.

In addition, there are cases where cats have eased people's physical pain.

In one hospice, a patient suffering from severe lung cancer, whose pain could not be alleviated by morphine, found relief when with their beloved cat.

The interaction with a beloved cat may be the most effective pain reliever.


3. What is the Healing Power of Cats?


When it comes to animal therapy, dogs are indeed famous.

The presence of dogs, who offer loyal and pure affection to humans, heals and energizes people's hearts.

However, cats possess their own unique charm and, as therapists, have different qualities from dogs.

So, what kind of healing power do cats have? Let's introduce some of the main ones below.


3-1. They Don't Startle People

Dogs can be very active, startling people with their large movements or barking.

However, cats, if in a calm environment, move slowly and do not make loud noises.

When held in someone's lap, they seem content and behave quietly.

Many people find healing in their leisurely movements.


3-2. Comfortable to Hold

Cats' bodies are small and soft, fitting snugly against the body in any position, making them easy to hold even for people with disabilities, such as wheelchair users.

Because their skin stretches well, cats do not get hurt easily, even if pulled by people who cannot use their hands well or by children.

They also groom themselves frequently, which keeps them odor-free and clean, another unique charm of cats.

While it may be difficult to play or be active with them like dogs, you can enjoy quiet moments while holding them.

The warm and soft body of a cat can relax and comfort people's hearts.


3-3. Independent Nature

Dogs and dolphins enjoy communication and activities with humans.

This friendliness is suitable for animal therapy.

However, cats are capricious and do not seek active engagement with people.

Yet, this independent nature is sometimes preferred.

Especially for people with mental illnesses like depression, who may find being encouraged to do something distressing, watching a cat's independent actions can be relaxing.

The independent nature of cats seems to say, 'It's okay to be yourself,' and that in itself can be healing.



We introduced the roles of cats as therapists and their healing power.

Cats do not interact or play with humans as actively as dogs, being always independent and whimsical, often just lounging around. However, when one is in physical or emotional pain, or tired from being overly demanded by others, the cat's capriciousness can be the greatest relief.

The warm, soft, and perfectly fitting embrace of a cat, quietly surrendering to your arms, can make you feel as if 'kindness' itself has taken the form of a living creature and jumped right into your heart.

The healing power of cats can soothe the bodies and minds of healthy people, those who are unwell, children, and adults alike.

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