Felinotherapy is an activity in the field of Animal Assisted Interventions, sometimes called zoo rehabilitation. Animal Assisted Interventions was first defined in the USA. It includes all positive beneficial interactions, where people and animals meet. Positive interactions between humans and animals have had a long history that could be traced to the middle ages.
Delta Society, now Pet Partners is one of the well-known organizations that work in this field.
ESAAT is a European umbrella organization for Animal Assisted Therapy. This organization defines Canis therapy as an individual activity but does not define felinotherapy. In the previous east block countries like The Czech and Slowak Republic went zoo rehabilitation a bit different ways. Felinotherapy has been a part of Animal Assisted Activities in the Czech Republic since 2002 and in the Slowak Republic since 2009. It is possible to find some videos about felinotherapy form Austria, Poland. Izrael and Russia as well.
The volunteers are called handlers and make up an Felinotherapy team with their cats.
The cats and the handler have to be tested. The character of these cats is very rare and specific. They have to be well socialized, healthy, fearless, communicative. They have to be able to travel with their handler by car, bus or train for quite long distances without troubles and work with clients of all ages and disabilities. They have to work in various settings and facilities.
This testing procedure involves a veterinary part including propper vaccination and the part of character examination of the cat. Then the Felinotherapy team is undergoing a half year of training in a certain setting. It could be an elderly home, hospital, kindergarten, home for disabled people. After this training is the Felinotherapy team tested for teamwork.
The handler has to be empative to the people and his/her cat needs to be able to read a body language of people, cat or other animals which could be at the same place. The handler needs to have good communication skills, protect his/her cat in all situations, be aware of the veterinary aspect of cat breeding and basic laws regarding this activity.
There are not many Felinotherapy teams in those countries. The Felinotherapy teams work with British cats, Devon Rexes, Maine Coon cats, Norwegian Forest cats, Ragdolls and Ragamuffins, Siamese and Oriental cats, Siberian cats, and House cats. They perform a high-quality service.
It is common, that one handler works with one cat in one setting, but it depends on the cats and handler. In training, it is allowed to work with the cat from the age of half a year.
To unify testing methods in this field International Felinotherapy Association was founded in March 2020.
AAI includes fore basic and one online forms:
AAA- Animal Assisted Activities - these activities is performed by volunteers with their cats. Most forms of felinotehrapy are provided in this field.
AAA – On-line – a new method which was developed in the covid-19 time. Handlers meet with their clients online and the activities are performed via conversation, watching videos prepared with the cooperation of the other handlers, watching photos, virtual visits to exhibitions or wild cats in zoos, explaining cats behavior and welfare od cats for owners – so home felinotherapy for everyone.
AAT - Animal Assisted Therapy - these activities is performed by therapist with their cats. It means by psychologist, physiotherapist, speech therapist ad so on.
AAE - Animal Assisted Education - education is performed by teachers, other educators, or speech therapists.
AACR - Animal Assisted Crisis Response - in this field the specialists provide help to those who suffer from natural disasters or terrorist attacks. It is a very rare use of felinotherapy.