In the second of our posts introducing Therapy Cats of the world, we welcome European colleague Eva Kullman with Mogli and Baghira. They provide a different perspective on life as a therapy animal, in Germany, and we invite you to read their story.
Where in the world are you as our guest Therapy Cats?
I and my two cats live in Berlin, Germany.
What drew you and Mogli and Baghira towards the world of Therapy Cats (TC’s)
I am a member of a social oriented organisation and 4 years ago we decided to start visiting elderly in nursing homes who don’t get many visits. Since I liked the idea but didn’t know how to meet seniors I asked if I could bring my two cats, and the nursing home agreed immediately.
We also visit kindergartens and work with teenagers. This year (2014) I have founded a new organisation that organizes visits with all kinds of therapy animals and is called “Projekt Therapietiere – Lebensfreude auf vier Pfoten e.V.”
Do TC’s get special training (or structured) training?
In Germany there are barely TCs. When I started I tried to find someone else who had a TC, but this was without any effort. So we started learning by doing. I also train my cats with clicker training, so they accept a harness, go into their carrier and lay down when asked to.
The biggest challenge you have faced as Therapy Cats
The biggest challenge here in Germany is to cope with different types of visits. Besides that Mogli’s biggest challenge certainly is to work with children, so I always take Baghira then, and to lay on patients’ beds. Baghira on the other side is not very fond of being stroked so his career as therapy cat is limited.
What does being a TC mean to you? What’s the best things about being a TC?
I love the joy we bring to the people we visit. I love to see small reactions of the people suffering of dementia and the little sparks of memory coming back.
Do you have a special routine on Therapy days, special equipment you use/wear/travel in as therapy cats?
Mogli has to put on his harness with the help of some treats and then goes in his carrier. When we arrive at the nursing home we first go for a walk in the garden where Mogli loves to eat grass. On our way back from the garden we pass by the manager of the nursing home, she always opens her window and Mogli hops in her office. I, of course, have to go through the doors to pick him up again and then we go to our visits!
What do you think a Therapy Cat needs to be successful?
Of course a TC has to be healthy and doesn’t scratch or bite. The TC should be curious and not be anxious in unknown rooms.
Has anything funny every happened while you have been working 🙂
There are more moving moments: when patients start to talk or to sing, when they smile, when they share their memories, when they reach out to stroke the cat, when they tell me that they have been dreaming of Mogli, and funny to me is the most often heard sentence of the staff: I couldn’t do this with my cat.