Cats can bring joy and create positive emotions for people of all ages.
While cats can qualify for emotional support, therapy, and assistance/companion animals, researchers state that much more research is needed to fully determine the capabilities of cats as emotional support animals and therapy animals. Funding for research is reported to be much harder to obtain, even if some researchers state that they can be superior for researching topics such as diseases. In a New York Times article, a search result of Pub Med was conducted. In the database, it yielded 139,858 results for cats and 328,781 results for dogs. Google scholar results were 1,670,000 for cats and 2,850,000 for dogs, leading research for the development of cats as therapy or emotional support animals to be small in comparison to dogs (New York Times).
This study led to the conclusion that the presence of animals can reduce health problems such as cardiovascular risk and create positive emotions for patients while still needing more research for conclusive answers.
However, small cases where cats are studied, results show that there is a possibility of cats having the potential to be considered as therapy cats or emotional support cats. In one study, even if there were no formal protocols of interaction, patients had increased activity and enjoyed the cats’ presence. This study led to the conclusion that the presence of animals can reduce health problems such as cardiovascular risk and create positive emotions for patients while still needing more research for conclusive answers. In another study, parents with children who have an autism spectrum disorder reported positive comments about therapy cats for those with mild ASD, while those tested who have severe ASD reported the cats showing aggression, leading to the conclusion that cats adopted and raised can show more affection and less aggression to those with ASD (Frontiers Media).
Even as research leads to inconclusive answers, the practice of using cats for therapy, companionship, and emotional support is reported to be steadily gaining popularity. The AVMA reports that the Delta Society originally brought cats into nursing homes for therapy during the society’s 18th annual conference. Pet Partners, an official partner of the American Kennel Club, has program requirements for cats, among many other programs authorized by the AKC. Emotional support cats can be an excellent endeavor for those wanting emotional support and therapy, but more research is still needed to be conclusive about the effectiveness of cats in service roles.
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