We’ve all heard various stories of animals doing extraordinary things for their humans – detecting cancer, alerting them to fire, dragging children from imminent danger and so forth. More often than not they’re stories about dogs, and while that’s great, Pussa & Soph got me to go in search of cats who’ve done something amazing. As I researched this what I ended up finding were stories, not of great heroism, but those which recounted cats undertaking the role of therapy animals and providing immense comfort to the humans they share their world with. Here are a few of them:
Oscar: Oscar was one of 6 cats adopted by the Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Centre in Rhode Island in the US. This centre is a hospice for those suffering from Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease and other illnesses where the patients have severe cognitive impairment. It became apparent after 6 months or so that Oscar had an extraordinary ability to predict when a patient was hours from death. He would often decide to nap next to the dying patient as if to provide comfort to them. Plus, it allowed staff to alert family members thereby giving them the opportunity to say goodbye. Oscar is considered to have accurately predicted up to 50 deaths at the hospice, and his story was the subject of an article in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Clover: J Manerling was married with a 9 year old daughter and 4 year old son, Richard, when his wife suddenly and unexpectedly died. Richard was autistic and at 4 was still non-verbal. By a strange quirk before he had children of his own J Manerling was a neuroscientist and had worked with children who had neuropsychological disabilities. Through his work he’d been aware of the success that some children had had with interacting with animals. With this in mind they went about arranging numerous activities to allow Richard to interact with animals. There hadn’t been any interest expressed by him until the day they went to visit their local animal shelter. Initially walking past the cat shelter they went to where the dogs were housed but again no interest. In a ‘why the hell not’ moment, he and Richard went into the cat shelter where he spotted and pointed to a black and white tuxedo cat and said “Cat”! This was his first ever vocalised word. The cat was promptly taken home that day, and was named Clover because they discovered that Richard could pronounce it. His son proceeded to talk to Clover when he thought no-one was listening and so avoided being asked to repeat or explain himself. Richard is now 20 and at college majoring in art. While Clover went to cat heaven a number of years ago, the next generation of cats, Linus and Melody, moved in and helped Richard through high school and onto college.
Clementine & Princess Natalie: These two cats were considered unfit to be rehomed after there early mistreatment by humans made them scared and prone to lashing out as a form of defence. Scheduled to be put down they were taken in by a shelter who was establishing a pilot program to partner with a minimum security prison near Seattle. This program was hoping to provide an opportunity for selected inmates, and their furry cohabitants, to learn compassion, responsibility and about unconditional love. The cats, who had a long history of hissing and biting, came to live in the 3.5m x 3m cell with inmates Joey Conteras and Richard Amaro. They recount that when the cats first arrived they were moody, dysfunctional and prone to violence. Over a period of time they could be patted, brushed and held for a few minutes. The cats spend all of their time with their inmates and this includes their daily leashed walks. The cell has a scratching post, cat perches and the cat’s food bowls. The motivation for the inmates is to maintain their good behaviour otherwise their cat friends will be taken away and they will need to move back into a 40-man dormitory. Counsellors at the prison say that this program reinforces the concepts of teamwork and responsibilities, skills that the inmates will need when they re-enter society and to avoid recidivism. Now there’s a win-win for you.
Pussa & Soph thought that these were some stories that would make you feel all warm and fuzzy about the world. Something that is seems a bit scarce right now.