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Is there any better a bundle of love than a big orange tabby?


In a new twist on the Therapy Pet model, an elderly depressed orangutan at ZooWorld in Florida has a new lease on life after being paired with an orange tabby. Tonda lost her mate a few years ago, after which she fell into a depressive funk. “We thought we were going to lose her a couple years back because she did get depressed,” said Stephanie Willard, ZooWorld’s director of education. “She got off her food and off her activities.”


Finding Tonda a new mate was problematic. Tonda was deemed too old for another mate and too fragile to move to a new location.


ZooWorld remembered how Koko, the sign-language literate gorilla, had successfully bonded with a series of pet cats over the years, and decided to see if some purr therapy would be beneficial to Tonda.


The cat who was selected for the job, T.K. (for “Tonda’s Kitty”) was chosen for his mellow yet playful disposition. “He’s more laid back than the female cat probably would be,” Willard said. “He loves the attention and is a typical tabby cat. Nice, fluffy, ‘love on me’ anytime.”


“Tonda very quickly got attached to the cat and got real mad at us when we would take him away,” Willard said. “The cat has added so much to her life.” In addition to bringing her out of her funk, the cat’s companionship seems to have helped Tonda’s respiratory issues.


Zookeepers can’t tell you why this interspecies love affair works, but one thing is certain: their love is here to stay. “It’s heartwarming,” Willard said. “It doesn’t get to be an old story. It’s very, very close to all of those of us involved.”