Therapy Cat: Discover How a Therapy Animal Can Help You

Therapy Cat: Discover How a Therapy Animal Can Help You

Updated on May 13, 2024
Written by Brenda Mejia

fact checked by Andre Gregatti

A therapy cat is a companion that comforts you during challenging times. It offers much more than basic companionship. Therapy cats can be useful for individuals with mental health issues. Their companionship can provide significant emotional support, helping to ease various psychological conditions.

Therapy cats are trained to interact with individuals who may need them. Their calm and steady demeanor distinguishes them from typical household pets. They are adept at navigating therapeutic environments. Their soothing influence can make a real difference in someone’s emotional well-being.

The concept of a therapy cat is gaining popularity in mental health discourse. That’s all thanks to their unique ability to reduce stress and increase mood. These creatures are more than just pets; they’re partners in healing.

What Is a Therapy Cat?

A therapy cat is specially trained for cat therapy. This means that they offer emotional support and companionship in various therapeutic settings. These cats can handle diverse social situations. This makes them invaluable for engaging with individuals facing psychological and emotional challenges.

How Do Therapy Cats Work?

Therapy cats work by engaging with patients under a healthcare professional’s guidance. They’re useful during cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or cognitive analytic therapy (CAT) sessions. The cat’s presence can ease communication, reduce anxiety, and encourage positive social behaviors. These sessions use cats for their calming demeanor, unconditional love, and reassuring “purr.”

Therapy sessions involving cats can vary in length and frequency. You may need to attend regular weekly appointments. Follow-up appointment sessions can have a longer-lasting impact.

Therapists tailor these sessions to the specific individual needs involved. Beneficiaries often include:

  • Patients suffering from mental health disorders.
  • Elderly residents in care facilities.
  • Children with developmental challenges.
  • Individuals recovering from trauma.

How Can a Therapy Cat Help You?

Therapy cats play a crucial role in therapeutic approaches. Especially those involving cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), interpersonal therapy, and talking therapy. Their presence can reduce stress and ease symptoms of anxiety and depression.

A therapy cat’s companionship can offer a sense of calm and security. This is particularly important for individuals seeking therapy. It can facilitate more open and effective communication during sessions.

Your therapist may ask you to complete the Psychotherapy File. This is a simple questionnaire. It allows you to find out if a cat is likely to be useful for your sessions. It identifies examples of patterns and states of mind patients often describe.

If the therapist determines that a cat will be necessary, you’ll see it during your sessions. A cat can provide a comforting presence encouraging individuals to discuss their feelings.

Therapy Cat vs Therapy Dogs

Therapy cats and dogs are both invaluable in therapeutic settings. The table below shows their unique advantages and suitability for certain environments.


Therapy Cat

Therapy Dog

Nature of Interaction Quieter and less intrusive, ideal for settings requiring a calm atmosphere. More active and engaging, suited for interactive therapeutic activities.
Therapeutic Impact Excels in providing gentle, non-disruptive companionship. Perfect for individual therapy sessions or environments where calm is crucial. Effective in group settings and activities. Beneficial for their playful and energetic presence.
Social Bonding Often forms deep emotional connections through quiet affection, ideal for one-on-one interactions. Builds strong bonds through active engagement and physical activity. Great for socializing in groups.
Suitability Best for therapeutic environments where a serene presence is needed. Helpful in hospitals, elderly care, or for individuals who prefer minimal disturbance. Highly versatile and useful in varied settings. Ideal for schools, hospitals, and community centers where more robust interaction is beneficial.

Therapy cats can learn patterns in individuals’ emotional and situational needs. They provide a subtle yet profound source of comfort. They also offer stability in difficult situations.

Their ability to remain composed and affectionate without overwhelming the patient is commendable. Effective in sensitive or high-stress situations. For example, where a quieter form of therapy is necessary.

Therapy Cat Benefits

Therapy cats offer a unique form of companionship. Their presence can contribute to positive changes in individuals’ emotional and physical health. Below are several benefits therapy cats provide. See how they contribute to improved well-being and quality of life.

  • Psychological Health Improvement

Therapy cats are known to enhance psychological health. They can make their owners feel happier and more confident. The presence of a therapy cat can also be helpful for those having low self-esteem issues. It provides a significant psychological uplift, which is crucial to mental wellness.

  • Reduction of Stress and Anxiety

Interaction with therapy cats can lower your stress levels if you’re feeling stressed. Their calming effect on humans is notable. These animals provide a non-threatening and relaxing presence. They can help soothe individuals during therapy sessions or everyday life.

  • Enhanced Recovery in Mental Health

Therapy cats can be vital in the recovery of individuals with mental illnesses. They provide emotional support, helping cope with the symptoms of mental illnesses. This way, they foster a faster and more sustainable recovery.

  • Improvement in Daily Physical Activity

Owning a therapy cat can indirectly encourage more physical activity. Interacting with a pet often involves playful engagement and movement. This increased activity can contribute to better physical health and well-being.

  • Social Bonding and Companionship

Therapy cats help forge strong social connections. This is vital for people who feel isolated or lonely. Their companionship can alleviate those feelings, providing a sense of purpose and connection. This is especially important for the elderly or adults who live alone.

Are Therapy Animals and Emotional Support Animals the Same?

Therapy animals and emotional support animals (ESAs) serve different purposes. They have distinct legal definitions and privileges as well. So, what’s the difference?

Therapy animals are trained to provide comfort and support in therapeutic settings. This can be in hospitals, schools, and other facilities. They do not have special rights to access public places beyond those granted to regular pets. So, they are typically brought to specific locations for defined therapy sessions.

Meanwhile, emotional support animals are prescribed by a mental health professional. They’re prescribed to provide comfort and support to individuals with mental challenges. ESAs are not required to undergo specialized training. 

Unlike therapy animals, ESAs are granted certain legal protections. They can live in housing that does not allow pets without facing pet fees. They may also fly in an aircraft cabin with their owner under certain conditions.

Advantages of Emotional Support Cats

Emotional support cats provide significant emotional stability to individuals facing mental health challenges. Their presence can alleviate feelings of anxiety, depression, and loneliness. 

Emotional support cats are allowed in some public places. They can also live in non-pet housing under federal housing law. They’re recognized for the therapeutic benefit they provide to their owners.

Ready to own a feline friend?

You can enjoy a range of health benefits with cats. Their calming demeanor and reassuring “purr” can help with many stress-related conditions.

Learn More about ESA Cats

Get an ESA Letter for Your Cat

Obtaining an ESA letter for your cat can be a straightforward process. The assistance of services like ESA Pet can come in handy. ESA Pet connects you with licensed mental health professionals (LMHPs) around you. These professionals specialize in assessing individuals for emotional support animal needs.

How ESA Pet Can Assist You:

ESA Pet simplifies the process of obtaining an ESA letter. By using their platform, you can:

  1. Consult Remotely: Schedule a remote consultation with a licensed therapist. You can speak with a professional from the comfort of your home. This is especially beneficial if you have mobility issues. Or if there are no available LMHPs in your area.
  2. Quick Assessment: The consultation involves a mental health assessment. This assessment is to determine if you qualify for an ESA. It helps to understand how your pet aids in managing your emotional symptoms.
  3. Receive Your ESA Letter: Your LMHP will give you an ESA letter. That is if they determine that an ESA would be beneficial as part of your treatment plan. This letter is a formal document proving that your cat is an essential part of your life.

How to Get Started:

Obtaining an ESA letter through ESA Pet is easy. Start by visiting the ESA website. Then follow the prompts to schedule an appointment. The streamlined service allows you to complete all steps efficiently and securely.

Ready to make your cat an official ESA? Visit ESA Pet today and take the first step towards securing your ESA letter.

Get your Official ESA Letter Consultation from a licensed therapist.

Get ESA Letter Now

Therapy Cat Training

Training a cat to become a therapy animal involves a series of steps. The goal is to ensure the cat is well-prepared to offer comfort to individuals in need. The training process focuses on more than basic obedience. It exposes the cat to various situations to develop the ability to handle stress. This makes them engage with different people calmly.

  • Selecting the Right Cat

Not all cats can be good therapy animals. It’s important to choose a cat with the right temperament. Ideal candidates must be calm, friendly, and sociable with strangers. They should show no signs of aggression. They must be comfortable being handled because therapy involves frequent interaction with unfamiliar people.

  • Basic Training and Socialization

Training begins with basic commands such as sit, stay, and come. Obviously, cats are less likely to perform these tasks with the same consistency as dogs. But they, too, can learn to respond to them.

Socialization is also crucial. Expose your cat to various environments, noises, and groups of people. This exposure helps the cat acclimate to the unpredictable nature of places.

  • Specialized Therapy Training

After the basic training, cats undergo more specialized therapy training. The training is related to the specifics of the therapy involved. This includes training on how to interact with individuals experiencing emotional distress. Or how to engage in behaviors like self-harm. The cat’s purr can be particularly comforting in such situations. Handlers can encourage its use during sessions.

  • Therapy Certification

After training, obtaining certification through a recognized therapy animal organization is essential. This involves evaluating the cat’s ability to handle a therapeutic setting, how they interact with strangers, and how they react to common disturbances. Certification may also require the handler to complete a training program.

  • Continuing Education and Practice

Regular practice sessions and ongoing training help to maintain the cat’s skills. How many sessions are required can vary. The cat should regularly engage in scenarios that mimic real therapy situations. This will help the cat stay comfortable and effective in its role.


  1. Regularly assess and address any changes in your cat’s behavior or health. This could impact its ability to perform therapy work.
  2. Keep training sessions enjoyable and positive. Use treats and praises to reinforce good behavior.
  3. Always consider the well-being of your cat as paramount. Make sure it’s happy and healthy in its role as a therapy animal.

These steps and recommendations can help you successfully train a therapy cat. Follow them and enjoy the great comfort and joy a therapy cat brings.

FAQs About Therapy Cat

What Does a Therapy Cat Do?

Therapy cats play a crucial role in psychotherapy. They provide comfort and companionship to individuals with various types of therapy.

These cat therapists can recognize and respond to problematic patterns in behavior. They can soothe and calm patients as they work through their therapeutic sessions. The calm presence of a therapy cat can contribute to the therapeutic environment. It reduces stress and facilitates emotional openness.

How Do I Know if My Cat Is a Therapy Cat?

A therapy cat exhibits an exceptionally calm and comforting demeanor around people. These cats are trained and certified to work in environments that involve therapy. They are assessed on their ability to handle various social situations. A recognized therapy animal organization certifies a cat as a therapy cat.

Are Therapy Cats Better Than Therapy Dogs?

Whether therapy cats are better than therapy dogs boils down to various factors. This includes the specific needs of the therapy involved. It also depends on the individual preferences of those receiving therapy. Cats generally provide a quieter, less intrusive presence. It’s ideal in settings where the therapeutic focus is on introspection. Or where patients are easily overwhelmed by more energetic animals like dogs.

How Do I Choose a Therapy Cat? 

You’ll need to consider several factors. What’s the cat’s temperament? How well does it handle various environments? How does it react to strangers? Etc. Ideal therapy cats should exhibit non-aggressive behaviors. They should interact with humans and maintain calmness in unpredictable settings. Observing potential therapy cats in various situations is essential. It ensures you pick a cat with the right characteristics for therapeutic work.

How to Find a Therapy Cat?

To find a therapy cat, start by contacting local animal therapy organizations. You can also visit websites dedicated to therapy animal registration and certification. These groups often have directories of available therapy animals. They can provide guidance on the process of adopting a therapy cat. It’s also a good idea to contact veterinary clinics or animal shelters. Their therapy cat programs can help you find the right cat for your needs.


Therapy cats play a significant role in therapeutic settings. Their presence can assist individuals with mental health challenges. They can adapt to different individuals’ emotional and situational needs. This makes them invaluable partners in healing. Therapy cats also provide emotional support and companionship. Their presence can ease symptoms of anxiety, depression, and other psychological conditions.

The training process for a therapy cat involves a series of steps. It starts with careful selection based on temperament. The basic training follows. Then specialized training and certification are needed to prepare the cat for therapeutic roles. Trained cats can help encourage positive social behaviors in therapy sessions.

As quieter, comforting companions, therapy cats can benefit mentally unstable people. They enhance emotional support and recovery processes. Cats must be selected, trained, and certified as therapy cats.

Contact ESA Pet for Personalized Assistance