Meet Vinny the Therapy Cat

How old are you?
– I am 3 years old.  My birthday is March 28, 2011
Where did your name come from?
– My breeder registers her litters alphabetically.  The litter I was born in fell on fell on the letter “V”.  So, Mom needed to register me with a “V” name (although my call name could be anything she wants).  Mom decided to name me after the actor Vince Vaughn, and call me Vinny.  My registered name is GP DeKattCo’s Vince Vaughn, but you can call me Vinny.
How did you find your forever home?
– Mom had got my big brother Linus from my breeders about 4 years before I was born.  When Mom was ready for another cat, she called Linus’ breeders again, and they had a special boy for Mom – me!  I was actually supposed to go to Russia to another breeder as a “stud”, but that fell through at the last minute.  I had just became available again when Mom called.  My breeder said she should have kept me, but she already had a young boy in her breeding program and just didn’t need me.  My breeders sent me to Mom instead as a show alter.  I was 5 months old when I moved in with Mom to my forever home.
What was it like being a show cat?
–  Busy.  It’s a lot of traveling, staying in hotel rooms, and being handled by lots of different judges.  Show halls are usually noisy too, with a PA system, and people talking and cats meowing.  Cuts into those afternoon naps…  I live in Wisconsin, and have traveled to cat shows throughout WI, MN, and IL.  The farthest I’ve traveled to a cat show is probably Springfield, IL which was almost a 7 hour drive.  Some people will even fly with their cats all over the country to cats shows, but we never went farther than we could get by car.
How many awards did you win?
– I did very well at the cat shows.  In Cat Fanciers Association (CFA), I was awarded the title of CFA Grand Premier (equal to Grand Champion, but for spays and neuters).  I was also CFA’s 9th Best European Burmese in Premiership Nationally in the 2012-2013 show season.
In the American Cat Fanciers Association (ACFA) I was awarded the title of Quadruple Grand Champion Alter.  ACFA accepted my breed, European Burmese, in the 2011-2012 show season.  I was only the third European Burmese to achieve Grand status in ACFA, and the first of my color (chocolate).  In ACFA for the 2012-2013 show season, I was also awarded Inter-American Best European Burmese Alter, North Central Region 12th Best Alter, and Inter-American 28th Best Alter.
May I ask why you retired?
–  After a while I just didn’t like going to cat shows anymore.  Mom could tell I was not having fun at shows anymore, and promised me I could retire.  I prefer Therapy Cat work, where I’m the center of attention.  Mom said I don’t have to prove anything at the shows anymore.
When did you decide to become a therapy cat?
–  I moved in with Mom when I was 5 months old.  Mom noticed right away I had a pretty calm, mellow, laid back personality.  She soon started thinking I might make a good therapy cat.  Mom took me to PetCo, PetSmart, the vet, and cat shows to help socialize me and expose me to different places and situations.  I officially began my supervised visits and training when I was one year old.  I became registered as a Therapy Cat with Love on a Leash (LOAL) in December of 2012.  To become a registered Therapy Cat with LOAL, I had to be one year old, my vet had to sign a form that I was healthy, up to date on vaccines, and in agreement that I probably had the right personality for Pet Therapy work.  Then I had to do ten, one hour supervised visits.  Since there was not a LOAL chapter in my area, LOAL approved an activities employee at the nursing home to supervise our training visits.
What is your favorite thing about being a therapy cat?
– Brightening people’s day and making them smile.  Last summer we went into an activities room to see a couple people. One lady said she was not interested in seeing me. So, we moved on to a man in the activities room and his wife. As we were finishing our visit with them, the lady wheeled herself over and suddenly wanted to see me, fed me a spoon of baby food, and petted me. Later the activities lady working with us excitedly told us that was the FIRST time that lady had participated or shown interest in ANYTHING since she’d been admitted to the nursing home!
Recently I visited a woman who’d had a stroke. The activities staff who was with us, happily said that was the most she’s ever seen her move her stroke affected arm in her attempts to pet me. She still needed a little help to pet me, but a good example of how helpful Pet Therapy can be. 
I like seeing people’s reactions and smiles when they see Mom bring me in their room in my pet stroller.  Many people would like a visit from a Therapy Cat, but there just are not a lot of Therapy Cats out there.  One lady was very excited to see me, and sadly said she had to surrender her own cat to the humane society when she had to enter the nursing home.  Mom was told I am always the talk of the afternoon when I visit the nursing home.
Do you have any advice for cats would want to be like you?
Purebred, mixed breed, neutered, and intact cats are all welcome to be Therapy Cats – if they meet the criteria.  Therapy cats must have calm, laid back and steady personalities.  They must be able to tolerate unusual sights, sounds, smells, and petting that may be awkward or hard.  They must be able to travel in a car calmly, and without getting car sick.  They must accept wearing a harness and leash.  They must be at least one year of age and up to date on vaccinations.  Most importantly, they must love people and enjoy being petted by people other than the owner. Reactive pets (who react before thinking) will not be good therapy pets. 
If you think you would like to be a Therapy Cat, go to different places for socialization and exposure to different situations.  Pet stores, the vet (even just to say hi and get weighed).  Mom has also heard some stores like Home Depot, Macys, Barnes and Noble, and Old Navy are “pet friendly” but has not verified that herself and it may depend on the individual manager.  Call ahead to be sure!  Cat shows are also great for experience and socialization.  Most cat shows have a Household Pet class which is open to both mixed breed cats and purebreds who do not meet their breed standard.  Check the show schedule on the CFA and ACFA websites and email the entry clerk to find out if there is a Household Pet class.  ACFA website – http://www.acfacat.com/  CFA website – http://www.cfa.org/Client/home.aspx
Also, think about the kind of visits you’d like to do.  For example, a dog or cat with very little exposure and experience with children, might not do well visiting pediatric patients, but might love visiting adults and the elderly.  You can visit Love on a Leash’s website athttp://www.loveonaleash.org/ or Pet Partners’ website at http://www.petpartners.org/ for more information on Pet Therapy and what it takes to become a registered Therapy Cat.
 

 


 

Author’s Note: Many thanks to Vinny & his mom for answering the questions and letting me interview him. You can visit him on his facebook page

Pictures used with permission.

6 Replies to “Meet Vinny the Therapy Cat”

  1. I love reading about therapy pets! It is important work. I visit the VA for my work and there are LOTS of smiles when I am there! A lot of the smiles are Mom and me. We love it!

    Love and licks,
    Cupcake

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