In 2012, it was estimated that 36,117,000 households kept cats as pets. Taking the average of 2.1 cats per household into consideration, an astounding 74,059,000 domestic cats were living in the USA during that year. If that many cats are happily being served by their human masters there must be something truly special about the feline species. Therapy animals aren’t just beneficial to our mental health as a 2008 study conducted by the American Heart Association indicates. These studies also demonstrate how patients responded better to treatment following surgery and enjoyed faster recovery rates if they had contact with therapy animals.

Unlike dogs, cats are fiercely independent and not nearly as boisterous.  They also definitely fall into the low maintenance category as far as pets are concerned needing nothing more than food, water, a kitty litter box if they are home-dwellers and of course, tons of love. Cats are not only pleasing to the eye and nice to have around. They also go a long way towards improving mental health and other medical conditions.

There are countless extraordinary cats around the globe, each with their own personality and ways in which they enrich the lives of those who care for them. One such special feline is Oreo, the black and white previously-feral cat who lives in a nursing home in Cleveland, Ohio.

Oreo the St. Augustine Therapy Cat

Oreo Enriches the Lives of Everyone She Meets

Oreo isn’t a pushy cat, but she sure likes a belly rub and the amount of joy she brings to the residents of the St Augustine nursing home is paramount. Having a pet to interact with is of great benefit to the elderly with many studies confirming what is evident just by watching the residents interact with their cat.  Oreo has a knack for keeping the morale high at the nursing home with residents and staff alike finding it absolutely impossible not to smile when she is around.

A Relationship of Mutual Benefit

Despite the fact that she provides hours of entertainment to her senior companions, her purpose for staying at the home does not end there. Therapy animals are known to provide relaxing and other benefits to individuals residing in nursing homes as well as hospital patients.  St Augustine has many residents who have been isolated from their families, often leaving their own beloved pets behind. Many have also experienced varying degrees of medical and emotional trauma, all factors that Oreo is assisting within her own unique way.

As calm and even-tempered as Cleveland’s favorite feline is she too has her own quirks. She is fiercely independent and once she has made herself comfortable in her favorite chair it will take a lot of persuasion and head scratches to get her to move.

There is no limit to the love that can exist between an animal and a human.  The relationship is one of mutual-dependence and the love is unconditional. Where possible, the elderly should be allowed to care for pets and interact with them often, the benefits are simply of a magnitude that cannot be ignored.


Lucy Wyndham is a freelance writer and editor, having previously spent over a decade in the care home industry and is a firm believer in the healing powers of pets.

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