Animal-assisted therapy has been known to be effective for healing those suffering from substance abuse, alcoholism, posttraumatic stress disorder, and depression. Treatment centers utilize horses and dogs to bring about positive change, allow people to discover the roots of their emotional turmoil, and build a therapeutic alliance with their treatment staff. Cats, however, are not often seen as therapy animals—this might be because of their aloof nature, their seemingly casual friendship, and their proclivity for doing what suits them, when it suits them. Purr Therapy, however, introduces readers to two extraordinary cats who have been the source of happiness, healing, and love for so many people.
When author and psychotherapist Kathleen McCoy walked into her veterinarian’s office to procure saline solution for her dying cat, she didn’t expect to come home with two kittens. Timmy, a cream-colored Burmese and red tabby mix, and his brother Gus, a deep red tabby, provided much solace to McCoy and her husband Bob when their elderly cat Freddie passed away. Additionally, both cats were extremely attentive to Bob, who suffered from epilepsy-related depression, mood swings, night terrors, and grand mal seizures; Bob would often call them his “little therapists.”
After an unusual circumstance that brought a client to her home for therapy, McCoy noticed that Timmy’s presence immediately calmed her weeping client and allowed the client to speak and express herself more clearly. When the client asked if Timmy could be present at all of her sessions, McCoy realized that Timmy had a gift.
Purr Therapy examines Timmy’s relationship with a range of clients, including caregivers, adolescents, older adults, individuals with anxiety or depression, people with eating disorders, and people in the throes of grief. With each client, the comfort, peace, and calm that Timmy provided helped in different ways, to different degrees. Sometimes it was as simple as having someone sit calmly with Timmy on his or her lap, and at other times it was about running around the room so Timmy could chase a ribbon. Through McCoy’s detailed accounts of these sessions, readers will come to realize all the various ways that animals can assist with therapy.
After a tragic occurrence that resulted in Timmy’s death at only nine years of age, McCoy and her husband grieved with a multitude of clients, coworkers, and friends—all people whose lives had been touched by Timmy, the one-of-a-kind cat. Only because of Gus’ nighttime howling and obvious grief did McCoy and Bob adopt a kitten for Gus to nurture and love. What they didn’t expect, however, was to add yet another cat to the family after a brief trip to PetSmart and a glance at the Adoption Center.
After McCoy brought Marina, a flame-point Siamese just under two years old, into the house with two other cats, she didn’t expect to see that Marina proved to be just as much of a therapy cat as Timmy. Marina assisted McCoy with at-home clients during her retirement, including a mother and daughter with communication problems, a father and son with differing opinions about life, and an entire family who had almost every issue in book—drug and alcohol use, academic indifference, lack of motivation, and a host of other conflicts.
Purr Therapy examines the lives of McCoy’s psychotherapy clients through the simplicity of animal connection. McCoy implores her readers to utilize some of the lessons both Timmy and Marina taught her clients:
- Make self-care a priority
- Bring joy and energy back into life
- Build connections
- Implement fun and play into life
- Reach out to others for comfort
- Learn to appreciate what silence can do
- Remember the power of forgiveness
- Live in the present
- Realize what can be accomplished with patience
- Embrace change
Through love and courage, loss and pain, McCoy details the lives of her two beautiful therapy cats, Timmy and Marina, and their brother and sister. Purr Therapy is as much a book about self-help and healing as it is a memoir about the lives that touched so many others in such a short amount of time.
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