Therapy Cats: How To Get One, Train Yours To Be Certified, And More

So, you may or may not have heard of therapy cats before. What are they? Can you adopt one? How do they help people? Can you train your cat to become a therapy cat? Will it cost you anything?

This guide on therapy cats will answer all of these and some other essential questions. And who knows? It might even inspire you to become a volunteer and aid therapy kitties in saving more lives than you could imagine – human and feline alike.

What Is A Therapy Cat?

Simply put, a therapy cat is a trained and certified feline who helps youngsters, adults and elders through human-animal interaction.

Similarly to therapy horses and other animals, therapy cats offer comfort to those who need help battling physical or emotional health complications.

Therapy cats are becoming more popular as they are proving to work wonders.

It’s been proven that the human-animal interaction with therapy pets is beneficial for coping with:

  • Physical illnesses in elderly and disabled people
  • Behavioral problems in teenagers and youngsters
  • Emotional distress in hospital patients of all ages

Cat therapy is a common practice in care homes, drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers, juvenile detention centers, and other facilities.

Therapy pets can significantly ease the pains of patients suffering from a variety of health disorders – from heart strokes to autism and even depression.

Even though cats are often depicted as whimsical and sometimes even potentially dangerous, therapy cats are professionally certified, fully trained, experienced, and utterly reliable animals.

How Can You Get A Therapy Cat?

Cat therapy works in two ways.

The kitties are suitable for isolated individual cases and for facilities that help a more significant number of people.

In other words, you can opt for a therapy cat as a personal pet or benefit from the services therapy cats do for groups in various institutions.

Therapy Cats For Facilities

If you or any of your relatives are being treated in a facility, you can help everyone around you by appointing therapy cat visits in said institution. You don’t need to be the organization’s owner to benefit from the program.

Numerous animal therapy non-profit organizations hold events and schedule visits for groups of people who could benefit from human-animal interaction in a healing and soothing way. Due to the ever-growing popularity of animal therapy, facilities in metropolitan areas and secluded suburbs have equal chances of signing up for therapy programs.

Since therapy pets undisputedly improve mental and physical health, a plethora of small organizations also cover only local areas. Remember that non-trained and non-certified pets can’t enter a pet therapy program. The therapy kitty you come across will be as good as any other therapy animal, regardless of the organization.

Therapy Cats As Personal Pets

Interacting with a therapy cat can still benefit you even if you’re not a patient at a nursing or care facility.

It may sound surprising, but you can get a unique prescription that allows you to become the owner of a therapy pet.

The perks of having such a prescription include numerous advantageous privileges.

For example, you’ll be fully eligible to own a furball in a no-pet apartment building or dormitory, to use the services of no-pet airlines by taking your cat onboard, and so forth.

ESADoctors are licensed professionals offering unique evaluations, diagnoses, and prescriptions that will help you get a therapy cat. Obtaining a licensed ESA prescription is one of the easiest ways to get a therapy companion.

Where Can You Get A Therapy Cat?

Certified therapy cats are the personal pets of cat parents who have chosen to volunteer for the greater good. Sadly, volunteering means spending months and even years in training, paying for courses, exams, certificates, and membership fees….

You won’t find certified therapy cats available for adoption or sale anywhere.

However, there are three basic ways to benefit from a therapy cat’s healing and comforting interaction.

  • You can either visit facilities where therapy cats are appointed,
  • You can get a prescription to have one yourself, or
  • You can train your kitty to become a professional therapy pet

Turning a domestic or rescue cat into a therapy cat doesn’t happen overnight, and it doesn’t come cheap. Nevertheless, it’s worth the effort if it can help you and other people.

The Denver International Airport offers therapy cats for weary or stressed-out passengers as part of its CATS program, which also includes therapy dogs.

PALS (Pet Access League Society) helps countless people with their feline and canine therapy animals each year.

According to their data, about 20% of the people in their pet therapy program are kids and teenagers.

The Little Shelter Animal Rescue & Adoption Center based in New York currently offers therapy programs only for dogs, but plenty of kitties are waiting to be adopted.

Additionally, you can look for local pet shelters in your area. Most cats have the potential to become therapy cats.

How To Train Your Pet To Become A Therapy Cat

Being the owner of a professional therapy cat substantially benefits you and your relatives. That’s a given. But there’s nothing better than knowing that you and your cat as a team have the chance to help tons of other people.

Adopting a cat and obtaining a therapy pet status guarantees you’ll improve at least two lives with this human-animal interaction – your own and your rescue cat’s life.

If you decide to become a member of a pet therapy organization, you will also be able to improve (or even save) the lives of others who need some quality time with a cute kitty.

Pets do aid us tremendously in ways we can’t even imagine. If you and your cat can ease even one person’s suffering or prevent suicide – all that training will be worth it.


Certified therapy cats are obedient, easy-going, and fond of social interaction. This means that you must train your pet to respond to basic commands. Sure, everyone will laugh at the misdemeanors of a whimsical cat, but you can’t let a headstrong, reserved, or unpredictable animal roam around sick, disabled, or otherwise unstable people.

The ideal therapy cat must feel comfortable around strangers, noisy children or elders with unsteady hands.

Socialize the cat with other animals and familiarize it with startling sounds and unknown scents. Guide it through the process of learning commands and even tricks. The more obedient and tolerant your cat is, the higher its chances of passing with flying colors. Just keep in mind that you mustn’t force the kitty. If the training isn’t going anywhere, opt for the services of a professional trainer. Unfortunately, while each cat has potential, not every furball is cut out for a therapy cat.

Technical Requirements

Apart from passing training, your feline candidate must also meet additional requirements. In order to receive a certificate from any organization, the cat must comply with all of their rules.

The basic requirements include a certain age (kittens must be at least one year old), strict documentation of health history (your vet can help you with it), a no-raw diet policy, and some other variables.

For example, some organizations will want the cats to have lived with their pet parents for at least 6 months. Other organizations will demand that your cat knows how to walk on a leash. Most organizations will also want full documentation of your health history.

You shouldn’t worry about such variables. Each animal therapy organization aims to help people, and its rules are always transparent.


Prepare to pay mandatory fees if you’re looking for a certification. Even if you’ve already spent a great deal of money on training courses by famous trainers and behaviorists, you’ll still need to pay for the final certificates. The official documents indicate that your cat is a legalized therapy animal.

The fees start from $100+ . The certificate might cost you a small fortune, depending on the organization and the paperwork.

You and your cat must pass several tests and inspections for health and behavior. Regardless of how cute your kitty is, you won’t get a certificate unless it passes the tests. And comes the probation period. The latter may span several months, during which the kitty will visit strangers in various facilities.

Where To Apply

Last, here’s a short list of some of the best organizations that focus on pet therapy. All of them have volunteering programs in which you can enroll your cat. You can also opt for memberships, donations, event organizing, and other ways to help animals and humans.

You can also consult with your vet on any local pet therapy programs or nearby organizations, which can help you train your cat and obtain a certificate. Just because some programs are more popular than others, it doesn’t mean they’re “better”. Pet therapy organizations aim to help animals and humans, so don’t rule out the smaller ones.

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Steve Jolin

Steve Jolin is a content writer in the Pets and Health & Wellness niches. He is passionate about pets and their positive influence on their human servants. He lives with his family of 5 in Michigan.