Updated: Jun 22, 2021
You have probably heard it said that the best therapist is one with fur and four legs.
Many of our feline and canine friends have been hard at work (or play) in nursing homes or special needs organisations, bringing connections to residents, creating a gentle and safe environment for them to open up and engage with people.
These cats and dogs have been specially selected and people are seeing how they work their magic by their mere presence in the room. Love Kuching Project and Healing Paws are just two of such organisations in Singapore whose cats and dogs are bringing joy and comfort to many who need it. There is nothing more comforting than the healing sound of a purr or a pat from a little paw.
Back in 2018, a blind cat with the neurological condition Cerebellar Hyperplasia (CH) named Donny made news for helping his “grandmother” on her journey to be cancer-free. He visited his granny almost daily while she was in hospital undergoing radiation treatments. According to his “mom”, Susan Smith, Donny would sit for hours on the hospital bed to keep Susan’s mom who was then 88 years old, company.
Donny the blind therapy cat kept visiting his grandma with lung cancer at the hospital
Photo Credit: @Blossom_and_her_family
Susan, who is based in the United States, adopted the blind CH kitty rescued by the North Shore Animal League. His name then was Leonardo with the nickname Nachos, but Susan brought him home and named him Donavan (Donny for short).
Volunteering alongside Susan, the sweet natured Donny became a certified therapy cat at local nursing homes and Alzheimer’s facilities where he patiently comforted residents and patients by sitting on their laps and listening to their chatter.
Sharing Happiness and Love with Cats
Donny is just one of the many rescues doing their part to give back to society around the world. In Singapore, a small animal welfare group, Love Kuching Project, has been engaging in cat-assisted therapy for residents of nursing homes or students at special needs schools since 2014.
“We have cat and human volunteers at the therapy sessions, the humans to start the conversations with the seniors in the nursing homes while the cat does what it does best – sit, chill and purr – on the seniors’ laps,” says Camellia Gani, Outreach Manager with Love Kuching Project. “The cats are, well, a communication tool to open dialogues with the elderly residents who may not be feeling great about themselves.”
“Cat-fie” with Camellia Gani, her cat Simba, Madam Salama Binte Wanitam and
Prime Minister of Singapore Mr Lee, Photo Credit – PM Lee Hsien Loong’s Facebook.
Through these therapy sessions, Camellia and her fellow volunteers who are all owners of sweet and easy-going natured cats, sit and chat with the residents of the nursing homes for an hour or two.
As nursing homes in Singapore do not allow residents to keep pets, t