15.05.2017 22:46


Felinotherapy - when a cat helps to heal

Autor: Kateřina Paraiová | Kurz: English section | Kategorie: Features and other

Bam. Squab. Bam. It's four o'clock in the morning. Thief? Aliens? As I said, it's four in the morning so I do not really care. Something heavy lands next to me. Aaa, a cat. Six and a half pounds of hair on four legs with tail. It moves to my head and begins to purr. For those, who do not own or never have encountered a cat; purring, in this unholy hour, sounds like a group of mowers trying to play Beethoven’s sonata. One needs to be awake to really appreciate it. The thing I cannot seem to appreciate at four in the morning is highly sought  as a treatment. Cat is the cornerstone of felinotherapy.


This rehabilitation method is based on therapeutic contact between cat and human. Felinotherapy uses the positive action of a cat that helps motivate patients to various unwanted activities, but also to the overall rest of the body. It is a supportive remedy for depression, autism, hypertonia, neurosis, stress, child dystrophy, physical disabilities and handicaps, behavioral disorders, psychopathy and hypochondria. However,  felinotherapy is not the only method that uses animals for healing.  There is also canisteraphy, which uses dogs or hipoteraphy that uses horses

In Czech republic, felinotherapy is not really established,  it also lacks the main rules it should go by. Nevertheless, one lady from Ústí nad Labem managed to build a system that helps children in span of 8 years. "At first, it was an attempt and a mistake, we started using cats for children's therapies. Now, we finally put it as one of the special pedagogical subjects in the care and education program,” says Martina Brhelová, Director of the Specialized Primary School in Ústí nad Labem. This is a supplementary service, however, parents take it as a matter of course. Felinotherapy is also performed in the school in the hospital, and is also taught at a local university.

Mrs Brhelova is, furthemore, a cat breeder.  “You can say that it was a combination of my profession as special educationist and psychologist,  and my breeding activity.  Everyone who works here is a breeder of some type. Me, my colleague with dogs or another one with cats.“ In school, there is currently 6 cats, working‘, each one of them has it’s own schedule one day a week,  all of them come from breeding stations. "We have pedigree cats from certified tested breeds. We choose kittens right from the beginning; we usually use Ragdolls, Persians, Maine Coon and Exotic Shorthair. For dogs, we have similar rules, choosing large dogs that are suitable for working with children," adds the director. Therapy takes place in different combinations. A cat and a dog, two cats or just a cat or a dog alone can work with a child, all depends on the child's diagnosis.

The nature of the cat is primary for feline therapeutic purposes. The animal must be accustomed to people, quiet but also active. If it is a person who needs help with motion, it (the animal) needs to know how to fetch. If the animal serves as a heat pillow for muscle release, it needs to know how to stay still. Training usually starts at 10 months of kitten’s age and continues for another half year. The basic principle is that the cat must not pull the claws. But cat is not a dog that can respond to commands easily. “We had a Persian who worked well with one tomcat, but she was not so good working alone. Choosing of the cat is not always unmistakable. It can happen that our cats show signs of work burnout; it is not that they would become aggressive, but you can recognize that they are not enjoying it anymore. My Honey was great, but as she got old, it is not the same…,“ Mrs. Brhelova explains.

There are two basic types of feline therapy - targeted, where the therapist has a goal and the cat helps with it, such as practicing motor skills, or simple caring for an animal. Another type is passive or relaxing. The mere presence of the cat positively effects the elimination of emotional tension, negativity and the feeling of loneliness. “The cat works as mediator, helping with motivation. We have a tomcat on leash and a boy we needed to make to walk, so essentially we put them together, so the boy walked the tomcat,” says headmaster.

Felinotherapy is not only for children. It is also practiced in retirement homes. There, in the form of relaxation therapy, animal helps people who feel alone. The cat with its warmth and wounding can calm the person and make him more positive.

Any cat owner may apply for feline-therapy trials, which may be passed to an animal over one year of age. The exam consists of several exercises, from harnessing the harness to grabbing and stroking, to reacting to noise and sounds. However, as Mrs Brhel says that feline therapy should have some effect, the person concerned must know what to do. "You can do the tests, but if you are not a physiotherapist or you do not have a special pedagogy education, it is not entirely appropriate. Simply put, you cannot work with a person to help him with the treatment; you do not know the necessary exercises. The option is to talk to a therapist and work in a team where you will be the owner of the animal and the therapist will guide you." says Mrs Brhelova

Felinotherapy does not really expend in Czech republic, so far. The only school having it in curriculum is special primary school lead by Mrs. Martina Brhelova. It is mostly met with in ambulant form, where the cat travels to the patient a.g. to doctor’s office.


Klíčová slova: cat, pet, treatment, felinotherapy, czech republic,

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