Lia has a therapy cat. Actually, Kitty-Kitty is a rescue cat that was supposed to belong to Mom, but I guess it’s true what they say, people don’t own their cats, cats own their people, and Kitty-Kitty has chosen Lia.
Dogs have held a tight leash on the therapy market for just about ever, so cats don’t typically pop into your head when you think of therapy animals. Perhaps when you think of animals that need therapy themselves, but not as therapy providers.
For the record, I’m not a cat person. I don’t dislike them, I just don’t generally adore them the way some people do. But this cat is different, and I adore him because he is truly an angel kitty.
I don’t know what chain of events transpired leading up to the time that Kitty-Kitty found himself deposited at the shelter. Or how Mom just happened to choose him over all the other hopeful candidates, but this master therapist somehow made it to Lia’s house, and he has proven himself to be a furry little blessing time and time again.
I had worked with Lia for over two months before I ever heard Kitty-Kitty “meow”. For the longest time I thought the cat was mute because he never made a sound when Lia was loving him too hard or taking out her frustrations on the most helpless thing in her reach. Have I mentioned that Lia can be a little aggressive at times?
I didn’t understand their relationship at first. If I saw that she was getting a little heavy-handed, I would swoop in and “save” Kitty-Kitty, removing him to a safer, Lia-free zone. The next thing I knew, he would mosey his way back to her waiting arms, or patiently wait for her to come and grab him up, offering no resistance.
Kitty-Kitty is special, and he seems to sense when Lia really needs him. On most days, he usually allows Lia to handle him and entertain herself until he’s had enough, and then he disappears to one of his favorite napping spots to recover. But on those days when Lia’s brain appears to be misfiring, he’s usually very close by, just out of her reach, but close enough to keep a watchful eye on her every move. It’s like he’s standing guard to make sure she’s going to be OK. Every now and then, Lia seems to catch sight of him as he watches, and there’s a reversal, she snaps out of the moment and engages with the cat instead.
It took a while to make the connection between the two, Kitty-Kitty seeming to appear out of nowhere, crouching and staring intently at Lia. Lia’s mood and personality suddenly changing like a switch was flipped. Her doctor told us her behavior was most likely a partial seizure breaking through her meds. I can usually tell what’s looming on the horizon because of a very dark look she gets in her eyes, but by then she has already progressed to Phase One. Kitty-Kitty seems to be on the alert before her eyes signal the coming event. It’s as though he senses some sort of prodromal change in her. I have learned to pay attention to this phenomenon and act accordingly.
Kitty-Kitty is also called upon to save the day when Lia is just being temperamental or resistant to following instructions. If she refuses to get out of the car when she arrives home from an outing we remind her that Kitty-Kitty is inside waiting for her. Or, when she has had enough “people” interaction, she’ll go find Kitty-Kitty for kitty hugs. And a few kitty licks. When she sees him her face seems to light up and you’ll hear her say, “Hey Kitty-Kitty” in that lilting greeting she has especially for him, and for a time, life is good.
While dogs still corner the market in therapy services, any animal/pet that makes the person feel better can be therapeutic. Therapy animals aren’t currently extended the same rights and privileges as service animals when it comes to making public appearances and having ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) protection. In fact, a little research shows that Kitty-Kitty would be more of an ESA (Emotional Support Animal) if a doctor or psychiatrist had prescribed him for Lia. That sounds a little strange knowing the two of them the way I do. They aren’t together because of a prescription, it was divine intervention – that cat is an angel kitty.