I was surprised when I heard a story about a therapy cat. Felines don’t seem to seek anyone’s approval and aren’t known for being particularly social creatures.
Statistics would seem to bear this out since there are only about 200 cats in the world registered as visitation animals through Pet Partners, one of the three largest therapy animal groups.
But one of them, featured in the February/March edition of Animal Wellness magazine, got his start in life in North Canton.
Three years ago, Tux, short for tuxedo cat — a common term for a black and white cat that looks like it’s wearing a tuxedo — was a kitten living on the streets. Neighborhood kids fed him occasionally, but mostly, he fended for himself.
North Canton resident Nancy Ruble spied him curled up on a sewer grate one cold and windy winter morning while she was out walking her dogs. It was a brutal winter. The fact he survived at all was a miracle, said Ruble.
“He just laid there — did not move — and I thought that he was paralyzed,” Ruble said.
Enlisting help from a neighborhood boy, Ruble took the cat to her home where the two of them set up a crate for it. Her veterinarian said the cat had no other medical issues but didn’t move because it had been so traumatized.
Ruble, who has long been involved in animal rescue, realized during the three months she fostered the cat that he was no ordinary feline. She contacted Janet Freehling of Norwalk to tell her about Tux, who seemed to have more curiosity than 10 cats.
Ruble met Freehling during her years in animal rescue and knew Freehling owned one of the few registered therapy cats in the world. Freehling’s cat Cosmo was about to retire after more than a decade of providing comfort to patients at the Behavior Health Unit at Firelands Regional Medical Center in Sandusky.
After a visit, Freehling said it was apparent Tux was special and took him home with her. Perhaps he could fill in for Cosmo.
In 2011, Tux passed his test and became a registered feline with Pet Partners, said Bill Kueser, vice president of marketing for the agency formerly known as the Delta Society.
“An animal must be under control and have predictable behavior. That’s the reason why there aren’t as many cats in the program as dogs,” he said. “Some cats are very, very social, but mostly, cats hide under the bed when visitors come. These aren’t those kinds of cats,” Kueser said.
Ninety-five percent of therapy animals registered with Pet Partners are canines. Felines don’t have to walk on a leash to be a therapy cat as dogs do, but they must be able to settle and lie quietly on someone’s lap for 10 seconds, he said.
Freehling has been so taken with Tux’s personality, she wrote to the magazine to share his daily exploits with readers.
“Oh, Tux, what are you getting into now?” Freehling writes. “A magnet for mischief, my black and white kitty is always one paw ahead of me.”
She writes of arriving home to find two window screens pushed out and lying on the porch. She awakes in the middle of the night to find the cat has shut himself in the bathroom by opening a drawer that is blocking the door. And during a nocturnal hunt for treats, he opens a closed panty door and knocks a canister off a shelf and tries to open it with his paws.
“When caught in the act, he sat patiently and waited for me to open the container. It’s hard to get upset with such a comical cat,” Freehling said.
Enrolling Tux in the therapy program seemed to be the only way to survive his antics, Freehling said. “He is now able to channel his curiosity and energy into his work.”
Tux has come a long way from living on the street to becoming a working cat, Freehling said.
“Following in Cosmo’s paw prints, who knows how many lives he’ll touch?”
Other animals in the news:
Eye Exams for Service Animals — Actively working guide dogs, animals who assist the disabled, detection dogs, therapy animals and search and rescue dogs are eligible to have a sight-saving eye exam throughout May. Registration must be made in April to participate in the ACVO/Merial National Service Dog Eye Exam Event at more than 250 board-certified veterinary ophthalmologists throughout the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico. Register online at www.ACVOeyeexam.org.
Enrichment Day at the Akron Zoo — Animals will be given Easter eggs as part of their enrichment from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. March 30 for the public to watch at the zoo at 500 Edgewood Ave. Winter hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily and winter admission is $6. Either real eggs, plastic or papier mache eggs with treats inside will be given to lemurs, jaguars, snow leopards, tamarins, lions, tigers, sloth bears, red pandas and goats. Enrichment is anything given to the animals to stimulate their natural behaviors. Although the zoo does enrichment on a daily basis, enrichment days give the staff the opportunity to showcase what they do for the animals. Call 330-375-2550 for more information.
St. Pet’s Day Pet Parade — Noon March 16 in downtown Kent. The Celtic Club is inviting pet lovers and their pets to dress in Irish attire and come to the Hometown Bank Plaza for a parade through downtown. Participants are asked to bring donations of dry dog/cat food and cat litter for humane/animal rescue groups. For more information, call 330-867-0485 or email email@example.com.
Kathy Antoniotti writes about pets for the Akron Beacon Journal. She is unable to help locate, place or provide medical attention for an individual animal. If you have an idea or question about pets, write her at the Beacon Journal, P.O. Box 640, Akron, OH 44309-0640; call 330-996-3565; or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.