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 Basil, who began serving as a therapy cat at about 18 months and is five. Basil is certified through Pet Partners and spreads sunshine to seniors and children in Oregon. Rainy’s interview with Basil will appear later this fall on Instagram.
RAINY: Why did your Mom want you to become a therapy cat?
BASIL: Originally, she thought Mack would be the therapy cat of the family but you know how boys are…. He is VERY loving but he didn’t really like leaving the house to be out in public. Me, I love it! It’s a way to help people smile and the world needs lots more smiles.
RAINY: How did your mom prepare you to become a therapy cat?
BASIL: At first, she made sure that I was comfortable wearing my safety harness. After that, she took me for rides in the car and, once I was comfortable with that, she started taking me places. We started with places like our local chain pet store since they are friendly to all well-behaved animals. Eventually, she took me to the local farmers markets where are SO MANY people to see and other things too. Normally, animals aren’t allowed at the farmers market where we live but mom is very careful about following the rules and the people who run it were thrilled to allow me because of the work I do.
Sometimes at the store, I do quality checks on the cat trees…
And visit the buffet (Mom whispers something). Excuse me, the bird display.
RAINY: Why do you like being a therapy cat?
BASIL: I get to meet so many nice people who are so kind and happy to see me! Up to now, we’ve visited mostly seniors. Sometimes they get really lonely but aren’t allowed to have pets where they live. Mom says that we’re going to start visiting kids soon who are in a nearby hospital!
Sometimes, I get nap time when it’s part of my job to help a human sleep!
RAINY: Tell me the story of how your Mom got you.
BASIL: When my brothers and I were very tiny, just a few weeks old, some human took us out and left us alone in a field. We were cold, scared, wet, and hungry. Another human found us and took us to a shelter where Mom was volunteering at the time. We were too little to be left alone overnight and the vet didn’t even know if we would make it at first. So Mom took us home where we could be warm and safe, and get milk in our bellies. One brother was too weak; he didn’t survive. Mack and I were supposed to go back to the shelter after a couple of months to find another human but Mom kept us. That was five years ago.
RAINY: Tell me more about your family members.
BASIL: I’m part of a pretty big family. I already mentioned my brother, Mack. He’s a little round volleyball with legs and a mama’s boy. The oldest is Squeak, he’s seven and orange but SO TALL AND LONG! Mom calls him her ‘mini mountain lion.’ Terra is actually Squeak’s sister but is black and while; she’s VERY different from Squeak since she was with some other humans for the first two years of her life and they really neglected her. Tesla is six years old and grey and white. She is SO SOFT!! Fu is the same age and me but is a Russian Blue. She was a backyard breeder fail (just because she has a little white tip on her tail), so they threw her out on the side of the road about the same time and we wound up with Mom. Then there is Neko. Neko is blind and solid white; he was born feral in Atlanta. Someone fed him for the first year and a half but he had no kind contact with humans. Someone finally trapped him and then abandoned him at a vet’s office. That vet took him and dumped him in a shelter. He never would have made it out if Mom hadn’t rescued him. All seven of us are rescues and Mom says that’s the best breed.
RAINY: How do you react to other therapy cats and/or dogs?
BASIL: I give them a sniff to find out who they are and that’s about it! It’s only polite to recognize my fellow working pals. I’ve also met ferrets, alpacas, and a few other animals. I’ve worked with dogs who were really nice and we had a great time, but I’ve also worked with dogs AND cats who were not nice at all and barked and hissed at me. We always wonder how they got to be a therapy animal with those sorts of reactions.
RAINY: Share a happy therapy memory.
BASIL: I remember one human that everyone called “Sly.” He was really sick and the staff where he was told him that he could have anything he wanted. He said that he wanted to hold a cat again. Sly only lived about another month but I was the cat on his lap several times. He was so nice and kind. Mom would sit and listen to his stories while they talked and Sly would pet me. I know that this kind of sounds like a sad story, but we were able to be the one thing that he wanted before he passed on. I’ll bet that he’ll be waiting for me when I get to the Rainbow Bridge some day.
RAINY: What ways do you cause your Mom trouble at home?
BASIL: I’m perfect!! Except when I jump up on the kitchen counter… Or try to steal food from Mom’s plate…
RAINY: What ways do you make your mom happy?
BASIL: I sleep with Mom. She sleeps on her side and I curl up right next to her with my head on her arm. It helps her feel loved and safe. Other than that, she says that I’m darn cute to look at.
RAINY: Why did you start a fan page?
BASIL: I’m always surprised when people don’t even know that a therapy cat is a REAL THING! It isn’t just a job for dogs; some of us cats and other animals are VERY good at it too. I hope that my Facebook page and social media helps educate people about this and show them what good work we do.
RAINY: As a long-time therapy cat, what advice do you have for newcomers?
BASIL: Don’t push your cat. One in a million might make a great therapy cat but you can never force ANY animal to do this sort of work. 99% of what makes a good therapy animal is up to the animal and their personality. Don’t push, don’t rush, and if your cat ends up not being a therapy kitty, that’s okay too.
Also, therapy cats are still working for more acceptance to the incredible work we do. Go where they want you and try to educate along the way.