This phenomenon is definitely not just in our head; there are plenty of nonprofits and organizations that use sweet service animals as a means to comfort people in times of need.
Even health centers are beginning to utilize the power that pets and purrs can have on the human spirit.
Animals always seem to have a healing presences; there’s no better feeling than a furry little friend snuggling up next to you when you’re not feeling well.
Salem VA Medical Center in Salem, Virginia understands this perfectly, and that’s why they have Tom the tomcat around.
In 2012, chief nurse Dottie Rizzo and physician assistant Laura Hart read the book “Making Rounds with Oscar,” which is a real-life account of a geriatrician and a cat who that comforted patients with dementia, who almost seemed like he could tell when they were going to pass.
They decided that they needed a kitty just like Oscar around for their vets in need, and got help from a local veterinarian to find the perfect feline for the job.
And Tom was the perfect cat for just that!
Loving and gentle, he slinks from room to room, cuddling up to patients who need a little extra love.
“Tom knows when someone is having a hard time. He laid on my bed a lot and I rubbed and scratched him the way cats like,”Army veteran James Gearhart explained to TODAY.com
“One day I gave him some of my Ensure vanilla drink and he drank every bit of it. Then he rubbed on me and licked my hands.”
Tom is there for the patients in the center, making the sometimes-grim environments a little happier and homier with his purrs.
He even comforts staff who have to deal with death; after pronouncing a veteran dead, Dr. Blake Lipscomb said that Tom looked up at him and meowed knowingly, having spent time with the patient and their family before they passed.
He even warms the hearts of people who aren’t too keen on kitties.
Though there is a ‘No Cat Zone’ in the hospital where patients and staff are guaranteed not to run into him, Tom usually ends up making friends with hospital-goers whether or not they are self-professed “cat people.”
He has also helped vets who have certain impediments due to age or disease.
A patient with Parkinson’s disease was even able to speak more clearly with Tom on his lap because petting him relaxed his mind and vocal cords.
He certainly brings joy to everyone at the center, both the vets and the staff who treat them!
Many find him on their lunch breaks to snuggle him and give him treats, while others diligently check to see if his litter box is clean.
Rizzo and Hart were right, the entire air is a little bit happier and homier with a sweet kitty stalking the ward.
Thanks to Tom and his special powers, these vets always have a healer, a friend, and a little source of happiness.