Sphynx is an ambassador of good cheer at nursing homes, hospitals, and health clinics, where her purr and the smooth chamois texture of her skin assuage children’s fears and bring out pleasant memories for seniors who need a reminder of the unconditional love offered by an animal friend.
Debbie Polelli of Colorado Springs, Colo., met Piglet some time ago. Polelli had a couple of cats in her home, both of whom were rescues. She wanted to add another cat to her family, and she set her heart on a Sphynx because of their gregarious and friendly nature. But she didn’t want to buy one from a breeder, so she sought out Sphynx rescuers in her area. She learned about Piglet, who was in a shelter in Estes Park, about four hours from her home, and she knew she’d found a match.
As a long-time cat caretaker, Polelli thought she was going to be in for hundreds of miles of mournful arias. But it was strange. She was really calm and didnt freak out like cats do.
A few weeks later, she took Piglet to a party at her mother’s house, where she mingled with the guests and thoroughly enjoyed the whole thing.
When she saw a TV show about therapy animals, Polelli thought, “I bet Piglet could do that.”
She and Piglet attended a two-day animal-assisted therapy training workshop, where her temperament, aptitude, obedience, and relational skills were tested. Then Piglet had a trial run, where she was exposed to typical encounters like being awkwardly held and petted and having to deal with loud noises. Piglet sailed through and got her certification as a therapy cat. She’s one of only four certified therapy cats in the entire state of Colorado.
On a recent visit to the Village at Skyline, Piglet, dressed in a holiday sweater and her therapy animal harness, greeted the elderly residents with her typical charm and kindness, bringing smiles and compliments from everyone she visits.
Although we’re more familiar with therapy dogs, it’s obvious that good-natured and unflappable cats like Piglet are equally capable of being excellent therapy animals.
But it’s not just the therapy cat angle that excites me here — it’s the fact that Polelli sought out a Sphynx rescue group rather than a breeder to bring Piglet into her life.
There are rescue groups for just about every kind of purebred cat you can imagine, so if you have your heart set on a purebred but ethically you believe that rescue is the right choice, you can have the best of both worlds. If you’re interested, you can start by Googling purebred rescue groups and checking Petfinder for cats of the breed you want.
If you live near Colorado Springs and you want to see if your cat can make it as a therapy animal, Polelli and Kathleen Kelley, an instructor from the Delta Society, will be holding pet therapy classes and giving certifications to those that meet the qualifications. E-mail Polelli for more information.