If you’re interested, and your cat has a good disposition, here’s how to explore pet therapy:
First, visit the Pet Partners website (petpartners.org) for more information.
Find your state or a nearby state, locate an affiliate group, and contact it to see if training is available.
Training sessions are generally eight hours long, often held on Sundays, and are fun interactive workshops with stuffed animals for practice. They are offered three or four times a year. The cost is around $150.
Online training is available from Pet Partners, but Gibbs recommends the in-person workshops if you can make that happen.
After the workshop is over, you’ll have a private evaluation with your pet, and get tested to see if your team is ready to start visiting. If your cat doesn’t “pass,” you can come back for a re-evaluation. “If your cat is obviously terrified or aggressive when touched in different spots, the evaluator may suggest that your animal won’t get a lot of enjoyment out of being a therapy animal,” says Gibbs. “The animal has to get something out of it. But if your, say, 16-month-old cat is just a little squiggly, you can go out and bring him to a baseball park, or Petco, for socialization, and then come back.”
Once you get registered, your affiliate group will start scheduling you for visits. A benefit of registration, besides training, is liability insurance, which is covered for you. “Also, it’s a national organization, so if you move, you can hook up with a Pet Partners group in another state,” says Gibbs.
Go forth and practice pet therapy with your feline healer!