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Use of therapy cats in schools of children with special needs
Although the practice of therapeutic use of animals like dogs, cats and horses is being practiced through trained and certified animals elsewhere but it is almost non-existent in India.

In our country, though there is much talk of inclusive education and rights of differently abled people, no attention is paid to train and procedurally use certified animals for therapeutic purposes. Where so ever it is being done, it is more like a one shot affair or a fad that looks like unprofessional quackery.

A therapy cat is a cat trained for purposeful the human-cat interaction for purposes of learning (educational and cognitive therapy), relaxation (psycho-therapy) and healing rehabilitation therapy. A therapy cat along with its trainer provides learning experiences, affection and comfort to people in retirement homes, patients in nursing homes, differently abled children in schools, people recouping in hospices as well as other human service care facilities.

Therapy cats are trained to acquire specific temperament to be friendly to humans, cool, inviting, confident, responsive and at ease in all situations without bothering for the surrounding noises. Therapy cats enjoy human contact in a friendly way assuring the person that they are harmless and caring creatures.

Another aspect of therapy animals is that they are brought to people at their location along with the therapist, rather than people in need brought to them. The therapist diagnoses the therapeutic need and follows a procedural code or protocol to carry out client-cat interaction for emotional and sensory stimulation leading to relaxation and learning.

"In special education schools, teachers need to be trained to raise a kitten and make it friendly to kids to allow physical contact. The cleanliness of the kitten is important since special needs children in particular enjoy hugging animals while teachers as adults usually enjoy patting the cat. The kitten needs to be lifted onto gently, or trained to climb onto a sitting child's lap to lie there. However, each session should follow with cognitive learning such as singing a short poem on cat, drawing visual symbol of cat, tracing the word cat, etc., to link cat therapy with educational therapy as process-based experiential learning," I told a special education teacher in response to her query.

The concept cat therapy and basic training practice to raise a kitten for therapeutic purposes should be made a part of inclusive and special teachers' training programmes as well as mother-child training programmes, I feel.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of merinews.com. In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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