Boots and Tiger, my two beautiful cats, came into my life over 12 years ago. A policewoman discovered them at age 4 ½ weeks lying on the street between the paws of a dog. She took them to the local Vetinarian. There was a 13 year old boy volunteering at the Vets office and he went home and told his mother about the kittens. The mother told her best friend and the friend worked in the same school as my sister.
When I heard about the kittens, I rushed over to the Vet’s office to rescue them. I had no intention, at first, to include them in therapy sessions. I thought it would be distracting and unprofessional. So, on their first day home, I shut them in my bedroom and went down the hall to see my patients. Somehow, those two little balls of fur opened that closed door and wandered into my waiting room. When I saw my patients’ warm and excited reactions to them, I immediately began exploring ways to include them in the therapy.
Shortly after Boots and Tiger joined me, I learned there already is a well-established modality of Pet Assisted Therapy, with an extensive research and literature of its own. Most of it occurs in institutional settings such as schools, hospital, nursing homes, prisons, schools, etc. There, animals provide companionship, comfort and motivation to a wide range of patients. It is unusual, at the moment, for animals to be part of a private practice of psychotherapy. That is unfortunate because I have found their presence greatly enhances my work.
In my sessions, Boots and Tiger offer you numerous benefits. They provide a sense of comfort, just to see them walking around - especially should they cuddle with each other, or rub against your feet or, with your permission, sit on your lap and purr. They can help you express emotions more easily. They provide role models for all sorts of behavior such as the ability to relax, to spar with one’s sibling, to be spontaneous and to have fun. In addition, the two different personalities - shy, timid Tiger and the confident out-going Boots - provide wonderful opportunities to identify with those parts of yourself and gain a deeper understanding of them.
If you wish, look in the Publications section of my web site for the two articles I have published about my work with the cats. There you can read about the research on the animal human bond, learn abut Pet Assisted Therapy done in institutional settings, and see clinical examples of my work with Boots and Tiger. You will also see how I work with animal phobias and allergic reactions to the cats.
The first week after Tiger's death, Boots stayed out of the therapy office. Then he came back in and resumed his usual welcoming, soothing behavior with patients. Occasionally he sits on my lap too. Perhaps at some point I will bring in another cat, if Boots seems to want company. Or, I may let him live out his life alone, as an "only cat." Either way, he takes his work very seriously and is there to welcome you and assist in your therapy, Of course, if you do not want him in the office, I will immediately remove him.