While many people think of dogs as emotional support animals, cats are quickly becoming the go-to choice for individuals with anxiety, depression, PTSD and other mental health challenges. Felines not only help keep people company and prevent them from feeling alone or lonely, they also boost serotonin production in the brain, which greatly improves mood. One study even found that being around cats can increase the body’s production of oxytocin, a hormone often referred to as the ‘cuddle chemical’, which increases a person’s overall sense of well-being.
At Greenbrier Academy girls boarding school, we have a canine rescue program that helps our students learn responsibility while also gaining the benefits of animal support for mental health issues. However, we’ve come to learn that cats are much different than dogs- in a good way.
Dogs tend to put up with any behavior. They love unconditionally. That’s not the case with our feline friends. They’ll put you in your place if you aren’t communicating with them properly or approaching them in the right way. These animals won’t tolerate ‘just any’ behavior, which makes them more human-like when the girls interact with them.
Let’s take a look at some other valuable skills our students learn through our cat rescue program at Greenbrier.
Skills Learned Through Cat Rescue
- Communication Without Anger- Many students who arrive at our doors are angry. They feel like their world just isn’t going the way it should, and they don’t know how to make it work for them when it comes to academics, relationships and family. Communication is the first skill they need to learn. Cats help with communication by reacting to what a student has to say- not their words, but their tone. An angry, aggressive, frustrated tone will often result in a cat standing up and walking out of the room. The only way to get the cat to stick around is to change the tone the student is using.
- Social Cues- Some people have a difficult time picking up on social cues around them. Cats, because they cannot speak, use their own set of cues to communicate with the people that care for them. A wagging tail may mean the cat is becoming mad or upset. Ears back may indicate the cat is uncomfortable. Purring shows us the cat is content and happy. In order to take care of our rescue cats, the girls must learn what these cues mean. They can then take this lesson and use it to understand social cues and body language in humans.
- Responsibility- Cats, like dogs, require a lot of attention and care. Students are in charge of feeding the cats, brushing them, playing with them and spending time with them every day. This type of responsibility is important, as it can teach students to be more responsible in other areas of their life as they grow older.
Cat Rescue Program at Our Girls Boarding School
Playing with animals might not seem like intense therapy, but it is incredibly helpful for students overcoming anxiety, depression and PTSD. Being a part of the cat rescue program (or canine rescue program) can also teach your daughter some valuable skills like understanding social cues, responsibility and communicating correctly with others.
Learn more about this program and other ways Greenbrier excels in therapy by contacting us today.