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At AATPC we know we have wonderful, therapeutic animals. But we also know that nearly all animals can have therapeutic benefits. Both informally, and through our  Filial Pet Therapy Program we advocate for families to adopt pets from one of their local animal shelters, and find fun and helpful ways to interact.

Cats make wonderful pets for children, especially for a child without siblings at home. (Most of the time) cats are gentle, cuddly, and soft. Petting a cat has been shown to reduce stress hormones and decrease symptoms of anxiety, depression and even reduce the perception of pain. Many people do not like cats because they have their own mind. But this can be a very good thing for children. Cats teach that children do not always get what they want. They must learn to be accepting of others’ needs and desires. To engage a cat, a child needs to learn to be calm and quiet. The child must learn how to play on others’ terms, sometimes putting their own self centered desires aside.

Cats communicate nonverbally. Helping your child to understand what your cat is saying without words helps teach children to read nonverbal cues of others (which is particularly important for children who have problems with peers). Cats (especially young cats) can be playful, and nurturing. They can make kids laugh with their antics, and be cuddly when they are scared, sad, or need to cry. To have a good family cat, they will need some training. The child can help with teaching the cat to use the litter box and scratch only on the scratch post. Some cats can be taught tricks (such as fetch).

And cats are easy pets to own. Unlike a dog, most cats enjoy time to themselves and can be left alone during the day. If you travel often, a cat can easily be left at home for a few days while a friend comes and plays with them for a few minutes, feeds them and cleans the litter box.

And as noted in our Tidbits and Nibbles, children who grow up with cats are less likely to develop childhood asthma. So, unless someone in your home is already allergic to cats, this can be a healthy choice for a pet.

Whenever possible, it’s important to include your child in choosing a cat. Like dogs, each cat has a very different personality. Many cats are uncomfortable around young children (because they are unpredictable), but many cats, especially kittens do very well with them. We always recommend going to your local animal shelter and meeting several cats of different ages. My favorite animal shelter, Evergreen Animal Protection League (EAPL) has a large cat room at a local pet store where you and your child can freely interact with the cats. Some cats like to be held, and some don’t. For a child it is always nice to have a cat that they can hold and snuggle. But you will need to show them how to safely pick up and hold the cat. All cats like to be held differently, so they may need to experiment holding them in different positions. And, most cats won’t let you hold them for more than a minute or so. But that minute can be packed full of love!

If you would like to learn more about how a cat can help your child and family, you can contact me at or 720-266-4444. We encourage you to visit your local animal shelter and help rescue a cat. Even older cats make wonderful, therapeutic pets.

Barking C.A.A.T. Ranch
(Center for Animal Assisted Therapy)
7275 Kipling Street
Arvada, CO 80005
P 720-266-4444
F 720-266-4444

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