Today Lincoln Pet Culture is honored to bring a special interview to its readers. My therapy cat Rainy sat down to do an online interview with Sputnik, a two-year-old Therapy Cat who currently spreads sunshine to patients in Illinois. Rainy’s interview with Sputnik will also appear later this month on Instagram.
RAINY: Why did your Mom want you to become a therapy cat?
SPUTNIK: Mom thought I had the temperament to be a therapy cat–calm, attention-loving, and eager. She spends a lot of time volunteering at Naperville Area Humane Society and knew about their Pawsitive Therapy program, so she asked if cats could be part of it. They said they have places that ask for cats all the time so they’d love to have us join! Mom loves animals and she loves helping people; combining two of her passions is perfect!
RAINY: How did your Mom prepare you to become a therapy cat?
SPUTNIK: Mom invited lots of friends over so I could meet a bunch of different people and become comfortable with that. She had me start wearing my harness and leash when I was little so I’d get used to those. She took me to places like the shelter or pet store so I could get used to going places, hearing noises, being approached by strangers, and staying calm.
At first, Mom took me on just two official therapy visits a month, only an hour at a time, for a few months. That helped me adjust to going out. Now I go on five visits for sure each month and we add more as they work with our schedule. In April of this year I went out 15 times, with our trips ranging from 1 to 5 hours long!
RAINY: How old were you when you started as a therapy cat?
SPUTNIK: I went on my first therapy visit when I was 7 months old, to visit a group of residents in assisted living.
RAINY: Why do you like being a therapy cat?
SPUTNIK: I love going out, getting petted, seeing people, everything about being a therapy cat. When I don’t get to go out for several days, I *might* start getting into things I’m not supposed to touch. When that happens, Mom says I need to go on a therapy visit!
RAINY: Who are you certified with?
SPUTNIK: Naperville Area Humane Society certified me. I’m lucky to be part of their Pawsitive Therapy program with two other cats and about 85 dogs. There used to be a rabbit, but that family moved away. Someday I hope to meet the other cats!
I was also thoroughly vetted by Apex Hospice and Palliative Care where Mom and I volunteer as a Love on Leashes pet team. I had a temperament evaluation and Mom completed extensive training before we could start visiting hospice patients. Last month we earned our one-year service pin with Apex!
RAINY: Tell me the story of how your Mom got you.
SPUTNIK: Mom and I met when I was just three days old! She came to the shelter to pick up a foster family she would be caring for until they were ready for adoption and I was part of that family. There was my cat mom (not my birth mom), her three kittens, me and my birth brother, and one more kitten. The other kittens were about a week older than me and my brother.
My foster family named us all after space missions. I was the smallest, just four ounces, and so was given the name of the smallest space device. I needed a bit of extra attention, I was growing slowly and wasn’t always getting a seat at the table at meals times, so mom had to come in with us a lot every day to ensure that I was eating enough. The rest of my cat family grew well and were ready to go be adopted at eight weeks like is typical, but it took me 13 weeks to be big enough. By then, my foster family loved me so much they decided to adopt me and be my furever family.
RAINY: Tell me more about your family members.
SPUTNIK: There’s my human mom and dad and my three human siblings. My family already had two cats when they adopted me, both three years older than me. My cat brother is Leonidas Safa (Leo for short) and he’s a big tuxedo boy who is extremely sweet but afraid of just about everything. He and I get along great. My cat sister is Specaloo Jumeriah (Spec for short) and she’s a tabby girl who was head cat in charge until I came along. I tried challenging her for top spot for a while; now she’s still top cat but I like to mess with her and see what happens. Most times we’re okay with each other.
RAINY: How do you react to other therapy cats and/or dogs?
SPUTNIK: I’ve never met another therapy cat, but really hope to someday. I’ve met lots of therapy dogs at different events and we just go about doing the work we’re there to do!
RAINY: Share a happy therapy memory.
SPUTNIK: On my very first hospice visit, one friend I was seeing had been struggling. When Mom brought me in and asked if she’d like a visit from a cat, she nodded yes with a tiny smile. So Mom sat down beside the bed, put me on her own lap, and moved my friend’s hand so it was touching my chest fur. My friend started moving her fingers around in my fur, would drift off to sleep, then wake and pet me some more. This repeated over and over again for 20 minutes, with my friend stretching out her fingers to me each time she woke. I sat very still, with my paw resting gently on my friend’s hand, for that whole time. No words were spoken, just quiet contact between my friend and me. I just somehow knew she simply wanted a friend nearby. And all was good in my friend’s life for a little while.
RAINY: What ways do you cause your Mom trouble at home?
SPUTNIK: Most times I’m a pretty good girl. I do get into things I’m not supposed to when I don’t go out visiting regularly. I’ve broken a couple of things and one of those made Mom sad. I pick on my cat sister too.
I also like to sleep in hidden places. One time on a visit day I went someplace to sleep and Mom couldn’t find me for over eight hours. I missed my visit. Mom searched and searched, dad came home to help look, but they couldn’t find me. Finally they stopped looking, hoping I would come out, and about an hour later I did. Mom found me sitting on our landing taking a bath! They seemed pretty stressed out but also happy to see me. I didn’t understand they were so stressed! They still don’t know where I was. I’m keeping that my secret for now!
RAINY: What ways do you make your Mom happy?
SPUTNIK: Mom loves when I come greet her in the morning! As soon as I hear her starting to wake up, I jump up with her, sit on her chest, purr like crazy, and gently tap her chin or nose until she starts petting me. Sometimes I’ll head butt her and make biscuits too. Mom is also happy when we go on visits. Seeing how happy all our friends are when they see me makes Mom happy too!
RAINY: Why did you start a fan page?
SPUTNIK: We want to bring awareness to therapy cats, let people know cats can do this too and how they can do it. We also want to bring awareness to the Naperville Area Humane Society and their awesome programs. That’s the shelter we volunteer with for socializing and fostering animals. Through their Pawsitive Therapy program, we got involved with Apex Hospice and Palliative Care as Love on Leashes volunteers. We like to bring awareness to the positives of hospice and having pet teams visits people too.
My therapy cat Rainy is enjoying her interview experience. If you have a cat who likes therapy or agility, please contact Lincoln Pet Culture for an interview. All cat interviews will also be featured at Rainy’s Instagram account.