Gatoterapia, discover the beneficial effects of living with a cat
Did you think you had seen everything in therapy? Well here comes an increasingly popular: the gatoterapia , a tool used to intervene in the welfare of people, counting on it with the help of cats.
Gatoterapia, an anti-stress treatment with your feline
Therapy is a traditional treatment against the symptoms of stress, anxiety and low mood with the help of domestic cats. The use of this type of therapy based on the company that these small domestic cats provide can help to improve the physical and mental health and the quality of life in general, through the friendly interaction between the cat and the person.
The positive aspect of gatotherapy is, precisely, its simplicity: it is based on the company that is offered and cat and the person and the way in which they interact.
Cats and humans: a bit of history
Already in ancestral times, the human being has found in certain animal species a good dose of company and affection. In addition to the domestication of animals in order to preserve food (meat, milk), shelter (skins, wool) and displacement (horses), some species have maintained a more intimate relationship with man. In this sense, two of the animals that have traditionally played this role are the dog and the cat , although it should be noted that in the case of the dog, his work also used to be linked to hunting, herding and the security of the lodging.
The cat (Felis silvestris catus) is a small mammal predator. The origins of the species, or at least its first scientific reports, are located in the southern Egypt in the year 3000 BC. In those distant times, cats already enjoyed great consideration, to the point that humans gave them a category of divinity. From Egypt it spread to many other regions, through trade, it was a faithful companion of witches, magicians and healers. Later, he was welcomed as a domestic hunter of small rodent animals, which could spread diseases. In this sense, the cat was a health insurance for man. In addition, his role as a friend and domestic companion gradually grew.
Many people say that the cat company brings multiple benefits. Currently, there are more than forty different species of cats, each with its own characteristics: coats of all colors and shapes (and even without fur), with long tail, short tail, without tail, with very different cranial structures, and so on.
The cat: discovering his personality and his 'anti-stress properties'
The cat is a very autonomous animal, as it happens with the rest of felines. Your link with the owners of the house is based on a kind of mutual respect pact . The company of a cat, unlike what happens with most psychotropic drugs, contributes to achieving good levels of relaxation without the side effect of losing contact with reality or certain levels of consciousness. Petting a cat can reduce stress, as well as decrease the level of blood pressure and the frequency of heart beats.
For its part, the purr Characteristic of the cat (sound that emits the feline when it is comfortable and safe) has a positive effect on the mood of the people, encouraging good humor and providing confidence and security. The signs of affection that the cat gives us also have a positive effect on our psyche, helping convalescent patients to get ahead of their situation thanks to their simple presence.
Feline company, always welcome
Many specialists recommend to people who live alone company of a cat . In addition to the positive aspects of mental health offered by the small felines that are fundamental in cat therapy, cats do not require great care, compared to, for example, dogs. Living with a cat also helps us understand ourselves better and accept ourselves as we are: cats do not judge us, they do not differentiate between handsome and ugly or rich and poor; they only receive love and return it in their own way, in a completely natural and without artifice.
Families that live close to a cat also achieve some psychological benefits , since they encourage and reinforce communication between parents and children and between siblings. This is one of the positive aspects of the therapy. In addition, family living with animals teaches children to take responsibility for certain tasks, to respect and love other species, and this results in the reinforcement of calm, relaxed and stress-relieving attitudes.
Mental health, gatotherapy and some data
The benefits of the therapy in people with some type of physical or mental disability or with some kind of emotional or psychic disorder, have been studied. For example, among the disorders associated with dementia (Alzheimer's), autism, Down syndrome, ADHD and behavioral disorders in children and mood disorders, the benefits seem clear.
In the United States, several studies revealed that patients with heart disease reported a better and faster progression if they lived with a feline, thus increasing the percentage of survival one year after having suffered an acute episode such as a heart attack (Friedmann and Thomas, 1995).
People who live with cats at home have a Lower probability of dying from a heart attack . This was the conclusion reached by several researchers led by A. Baun of the Nursing Research. In the case of coexistence with dogs, the same protective effect was not reported, possibly due to the daily cares required by the dogs: dog owners were close to average probabilities.
Several associations and national foundations dedicated to improving the quality of life of people with severe mental disorders use cats as part of therapy. In autistic children, for example, cats have different positive effects. Obviously the cat can not cure a severe psychopathology, but it has been observed that the contact of the patients with felines gives them a good dose of happiness , it returns the smile, especially to those who suffer from a pretty lonely life.
The case of the elderly who live in geriatric residences It is also especially positive in terms of the benefits of living with cats. Different studies indicate that daily contact with an adorable cat, which can be questioned, caressed and cared for, can help the elderly to verbalize their emotions and feelings, as well as the memories of their childhood. Stimulate your memory and express anecdotes and stories of your past life is something really important in patients with senile dementias or Alzheimer's , because this mental gymnastics it is a basic factor when delaying the degeneration of neuronal quality, which is responsible for the progressive loss of memory. The tactile sense, being able to caress the cat and notice its purring when it is happy stimulates some nerve endings that evoke memories.
Cats are not toys
You can adopt a cat by going to the animal shelter nearest. Even, if you deem it appropriate (although you should avoid it), you can buy a puppy at a store specializing in pets.
But we must not stop being aware that a cat is a living being, that it has needs and can suffer. This implies that we must take responsibility for these animals and take care of their health and well-being. The cat must be properly dewormed and vaccinated, and in most countries it must carry an identifying microchip. Therefore, in felotherapy the feline is not a simple tool, but is an active agent that participates in the treatment sessions and has the capacity to decide what he wants and what he does not want to do.
If this last paragraph is clear, we can only invite you to enjoy the pleasant company of one of the most friendly, mysterious and beneficial to your health there may be. Gatoterapia has much to offer you .
- Baun, A.M., Bergstrom, N., Langston, N. F., & Thomas, L. (1984). Physiological effects of human / companion animal bonding. Nursing Research, 33 (3), 126-129. Friedmann, E., Katcher, A. H.
- Friedmann, E., & Thomas, S. A. (1995). Pet ownership, social support, and one-year survival after acute myocardial infarction in the Cardiac Arrhythmia Suppression Trial (CAST). American Journal of Cardiology, 76, 1213-1217.