Interview time again!
In June, my therapy cat Rainy interviewed Sputnik, a young newcomer to the cat therapy world. Today I’m excited to introduce Van Gogh, a therapy cat from Vermont, certified through Love on a Leash. He was 11 when he became a therapy cat and 15 when he retired. Rainy’s interview with Van Gogh appeared earlier this month on Instagram.
RAINY: Why did your Mom want you to become a therapy cat?
VAN GOGH: I had already had several ‘jobs’ before becoming a registered therapy cat. My human was a veterinary nurse at a feline specialty hospital and frequently brought me to work with her when she needed a well behaved, gentle cat to use to show clients how to give insulin injections, sub-cutaneous fluids, or even blood glucose tests at home. I was not fond of that demo but I was always on my best behavior because I trust my human and I knew that I was doing important work. I also served as a blood donor twice for critically ill cats. That consisted of having my blood drawn and typed so that it matched the ill cat’s blood type. Afterwards, I was given a nice meal.
My human also teaches drawing classes and would occasionally bring me into class to be the life model. I had to sit in the middle of a big table and let the students draw me. I was much admired by the art students of all ages. I understand that humans sometimes act as art models and that they usually do this in the nude! I was fortunate to be allowed to wear my harness and leash.
When I was around 11 years of age my human decided that I had all the attributes of a great therapy cat and she set upon the path of getting me registered with Love on a Leash. She felt that there were people locally who would benefit from meeting me, particularly elderly folks who might not be able to care for a pet any longer.
RAINY: How did your mom prepare you to become a therapy cat?
VAN GOGH: Well, she really didn’t have to do any prep because I had the temperament necessary and had already done ‘jobs’ that were similar. I was already accustomed to wearing a harness and leash, travelling in a cat carrier in a car, and being around groups of people.
RAINY: Why do you like being a therapy cat?
VAN GOGH: I loved being a therapy cat. I am a Burmese and most of my breed is very tolerant and loving of humans. I have always had a bold but calm nature and nothing much stresses me out. The best thing about being a therapy cat is that all the humans pay attention to me and I get to sit on their laps. I know I am doing important work.
RAINY: Tell me the story of how your Mom got you.
VAN GOGH: That is a long story indeed. Seventeen years ago, before I was even born, my human decided she really wanted a red, male European Burmese. She had had cats all her life and had met many Burmese cats while living in the United Kingdom where the breed is popular. So she researched breeders and finally found one in Kansas that was expecting a litter in the future that might contain a red male kitten. My human put down a deposit and then ended up waiting for a year before the breeder had kittens available. When I was 12 weeks old my breeder put me on an aero plane and had me shipped to my new home in the green mountains of Vermont.
RAINY: Tell me more about your family members.
VAN GOGH: I live with my human who for many years in her youth was a horse trainer in the United Kingdom. Now she works as a feline behaviorist and that’s great because she really understands cats.
Currently, the other cats in our home are 12-year-old Harvey who is also a European Burmese originally from Kansas, 11-year-old Owen who is an all-black domestic shorthair, and 2-year-old Edgar who is a Burmese from Hungary. My human has hopes that Edgar will eventually become my successor as a therapy cat.
RAINY: How do you react to other therapy cats and/or dogs?
VAN GOGH: It has never been an issue. My human is careful that I don’t encounter other animals.
RAINY: Share a happy therapy memory.
VAN GOGH: During my time as a therapy cat, I was fortunate to have many fans but two stand out as number 1 fans. One was a little girl that I met at my local library reading program. She loved me on first sight and over the next three years, she never missed one of my monthly reading visits. She gave me a gold medal that said ‘Awesome’ because as she said, I was awesome. My human was thrilled to note that her reading ability greatly increased and she became a child who really loved reading.
My other number 1 fan was a woman in her 90’s who was in an assisted living facility. This woman loved cats and had had cats of her own until she became too frail to look after them. We tried our best to visit ‘Pat’ once a week for an hour because it meant so much to her. These visits were very relaxing for all three of us as I would snuggle up next to Pat and she would tell us stories of the cats and people from her past. I later found out that Pat passed away peacefully after a brief illness and shortly after this my human decided that it was time for me to retire.
RAINY: What ways do you cause your Mom trouble at home?
VAN GOGH: Well, I am a senior kitty now so I don’t cause much trouble any longer. When I was young, I was a typical naughty, Mensa smart, into everything Burmese. My human said I was the world’s most annoying cat. It doesn’t help that I have a truly horrible meow and I liked to use it.
RAINY: What ways do you make your mom happy?
VAN GOGH: Having me become a therapy cat has made my human very happy. She is acutely aware that there are people who desperately need the unconditional love of a gentle cat and feels very fortunate to be able to share me with those in need. My human has since childhood suffered from chronic depression and social anxiety and cats have always made a huge difference to her life.
RAINY: Why did you start a fan page?
VAN GOGH: Because I have FANS! Also to help educate humans about cats in general and particularly therapy cats.
RAINY: As an older and long-time therapy cat, what advice do you have for newcomers?
VAN GOGH: If you have the personality required and a human who is available and willing GO FOR IT! Being a therapy cat is the best job in the world.
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.