Could therapy cats be just as effective as therapy dogs?

Oct 25, 2022, 6:18 PM

therapy cats...

(Photo by Yuri Cortez via Getty Images)

(Photo by Yuri Cortez via Getty Images)

When you think about a therapy animal, chances are you picture a dog. After all, dogs are perceived as people pleasers while cats … not so much.

“I think there’s a perception that cats aren’t suitable for these kinds of animal-assisted interventions, that cats are picky, that they don’t enjoy people. I don’t think that’s true at all,” said Patricia Pendry, Ph.D., a professor at the Washington State University Department of Human Development.

She looked at programs that universities offer students, like “Pet Your Stress Away,” and found 85% offered interaction only with dogs.

She wondered if some people would prefer cats.

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“In short, our study essentially looked to see what are some of the characteristics that individuals have that make them more likely to be open to interacting with cats.”

She found a link between people who have strong emotions and cats.

“If one scores fairly high on this emotionality trait, you’re more likely to be open and willing and responsive to interacting with cats than if you were low on that scale.”

She says her research doesn’t weigh in on the old “cat people” vs. “dog people” debate, but it does point out that more people might be open to — and benefit from — interacting with therapy cats.

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Could therapy cats be just as effective as therapy dogs?