The Healing Power of Companion Animals

Missions Inc.Featured, Mission Weekly

In the summer of 2003, a little orphaned kitten wandered into the back yard of Hart House, a transitional housing program for women in recovery. He appeared to have been abandoned by his mother and littermates, and the residents quickly adopted him, convincing the program staff that he would make a good ‘house cat.’ They named him ‘King Tut’ – because he was a handsome brown tabby with a lion’s face, and he purred his way into the hearts of all who lived and worked there. Over the years, he provided constant companionship for the hundreds of women who came and went – allowing them to “adopt” him no matter how long or short their stay. 

We lost Tut this month, following a short bout with cancer, and the women at Hart House will keenly feel his absence. He was an amazing cat who helped a lot of women during his 16+ years living in the program. He provided solace at times of sorrow, company for those who felt alone, and serenity for those who felt anxious and afraid. 

Tut always enjoyed visiting the staff as well as residents

The therapeutic benefits of these beautiful creatures simply cannot be discounted. They lift spirits, lower blood pressure, aid with healing from physical illness, and help alleviate or prevent feelings of loneliness. Whether we are sad, hurting, angry, content, or unwell, our pets always seem to know. And, they always seem to do what pets do best – they stay by our side. With the uplifted mood they leave us in, it is no wonder that they can be beneficial in recovery.

“Tut is one of the reasons I’m sober. In my past attempts at sobriety, I would think I had to jump into a relationship – probably because I was afraid, or lonely, and inevitably these relationships would lead me to relapse. But, this time when I moved into Hart House, Tut was there. And, he became my relationship. He would curl up beside me and comfort me and make me feel not so alone. I’m sober nine months now. I’ll always remember Tut – he will always be part of my recovery journey.” –Beth, Hart House Resident

Several programs at Missions Inc. have companion animals that either visit the residents (usually the pets of staff), or live at the program (Smith Lodge has a resident cat). We are always interested in providing therapy animals at our programs, particularly those that have been AKC certified. If you or someone you know has an AKC certified therapy dog and are interested in volunteering your time at one of our programs, please call us at 763.559.1883. 

“The cat is my therapy animal. I love the kitty and the kitty loves me.” –Joelle, Smith Lodge resident