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Cat Therapy For Addiction Recovery

Cat therapy for addiction recovery

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Can a cat help your addiction recovery?

If you’re struggling with mental health issues or addiction recovery, having a trusted pal who is willing to curl up in your lap and love you unconditionally can make a world of difference.  Cats make especially good companions because they require less maintenance, can be kept in apartments, and offer complete love and devotion.  Anyone who has owned a cat has experienced the relaxing effects that cuddling and petting their kitty has on them.  Petting a cat triggers the release of oxytocin, the hormone that creates that feeling of love and trust.  This is a great form of cat therapy!

Studies have shown that pets help reduce stress reactions, anxiety and perceptions of threat, as well as improve social interaction and mood.  Pet owners with mental illness or addiction are likely to have fewer hospitalizations in their lifetimes.

The popularity of pets in the United States has surged in recent years. About 68 percent of households own a pet, and about 30 percent of households own cats: that’s about 47 million households!

How to adopt a cat

The good news (for you) is that there is an endless supply of cats available for adoption at your local shelters and rescue organizations; each can offer the kind of love and support you’ll need during your addiction recovery.

When you visit your shelter, ask the workers there about the temperament of the cats and tell them what you’re looking for.  Do you want an active cat or a more relaxed, slower moving friend?  One that is good with children or other pets? The staff will want you to choose the right kitty and will do their best to match you with a new family member.

You’ll want to take your time when choosing a recovery companion, so don’t rush into any decisions.  Trust your instincts: there’s often a special moment when you realize that a cat is the perfect match for you.

“The moment a pet realizes he is yours and you are his, you become instant partners without hesitation,” explains “He will be by your side the moment you need him, and always give you the benefit of the doubt.”

The cat won’t judge you for your struggle, and he will never pressure you to do things you shouldn’t.  All he wants is to be your best friend forever — and get fed regularly.

Preparing for a cat

Before you bring home a new cat, you need to prepare your home.  Cats need food, water and a litter box to start. Cat toys, a scratching surface and catnip are also helpful for your cat’s transition.  If you can, get a cat tree; cats love to climb to high spaces and survey the area from above.

It’s best to start the cat out in a small room, such as a bathroom or laundry room, at first.  Cats are territorial and will be nervous in a new environment, so a small space will make him feel more safe.

Give the your feline friend some time to adapt.  Cats will likely hide at first and take time to adjust. This can go on for hours, days and even weeks, so be patient. Get down on the floor and wait for the cat to come to you.  Don’t force it.

After some time, your kitty will become comfortable with you and your home. Offer him plenty of petting and cuddling to reassure him and foster bonding.

If you have other pets or family members, read up on how to introduce your cat to them.  Family members, such as children, should learn not to startle the kitty at first and to be very gentle with him.  American Humane notes that if you have a dog or another cat, the transition can be slow and possibly even dangerous.  Make sure you’re prepared.

Once you have solid a bond of friendship, you can begin to love on and play with your pal as much as you want.  Some people even train their cats to do tricks or to walk on a leash!  The possibilities of life with your cat are endless and can make the burdens of addiction recovery much easier to bear.

What kind of therapy has your cat provided you?  Leave a comment below!
Cindy is the creator of, a website advocating for the love and ownership of dogs. She believes that dogs truly are our best friends and wants to see less dogs in shelters and more in loving homes. 

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