I have a very special treat for you today: Dezi of http://dezizworld.com has kindly agreed to tell you about her experience/life as a service cat. Take it away, Dezi!
Hello, my name is Deztinee Izabella, but mommy just calls me Dezi. I’m a Ragdoll Cat and also a Service cat for my disabled mommy. Yes, you read that right, I’m a Service Cat, not to be confused with a Therapy cat or Companion Animal. I have been specifically trained to perform duties/tasks that help my mommy live independently. I’ll get to all that in a minute. First I would like to thank Jeanne for giving me this opportunity to meet you all and share our story with you.
It all started years ago before I was ever born. My mommy had a car accident that left her disabled. Other than a few facial scars mommy’s injuries are all internal. She has a blood clot on her brain that affects her memory, causes constant migraines and causes her to pass out. She has bilateral Sciatica, that causes her extremities to go numb a lot of the time. She lives in excruciating pain most of the time, but she’s grateful to still be alive. She’s survived Cancer and has a few other problems, but my mommy is a survivor.
ShadNow at the time of mommy’s accident, she had a beautiful cat named Shad. They had been through a lot together and Shad loved mommy more than anything. As mommy started learning to live with her new disabilities, Shad began training herself to help mommy. Mommy realized this when she came to after passing out one night and found the police at her door. The nice policeman said that 911 had received a call and heard only meowing; first close to the phone and then further away. Back then police cruisers had tiny video cameras in their vehicles; so together mommy and the policeman recreated the scene only to see Shad run to the phone and call for help and then run back to mommy to lay down beside her and lick her face. Back then everybody had corded phones, and mommy’s phone had pre-programmed buttons and a speaker phone. The big red one was for emergencies, and that’s the one Shad pushed. As time went on, Shad taught herself more and more and helped mommy until the day she died. It was then that mommy realized if Shad could teach herself then mommy could certainly teach another kitty. And mommy did just that.
Any cat can be trained.
It’s many years later now, but that’s where I entered the picture. As mommy ages, she finds more things she needs help with, so training is ongoing throughout a kitty’s life. We still have a house phone with 911 preprogrammed in, so that we can call for help if necessary. I say we, because mommy now requires two Service Cats to help her. We recently lost my mentor and furry sisfur Lexi,
to kidney disease. And altho’ mommy and I miss her terribly, we have a new kitten and Service Cat in training in our home now; who we love and adore by the way. Her name is RaenaBelle Maycee, but we just call her Raena. She is currently learning how to give mommy a massage without poking her with her claws and alert her before she passes out. When she gets bigger she’ll learn how to use the phone to call for help, bring mommy the phone or other small items and drive mommy’s wheelchair, just to name a few.
Training is very tedious, but the pay off is worth it. Mommy doesn’t use a clicker or treats for training. She says cats aren’t often ruled by their tummies so extra praise and love make a better reward for performing the trained task. It also means she doesn’t have to worry about us gaining weight or carry around treats all the time. I’ve been with mommy almost seven years now, and when I first came, mommy was already using a wheelchair. So learning to drive was on the agenda. Altho’ training is tedious, mommy also says it can be fun. We drive by sitting in mommy’s lap and putting our mouth around the joystick, biting down with our teeth and moving our heads forward , backwards or side to side. While training I ran into a wall or ten and a door or so. I even ran mommy and me off the sidewalk and into the snow once. But mommy never gives up and I eventually learned how to avoid the walls and doors and drive safely. Mommy’s already got the foam bumper pads for when Raena gets big enough to start learning to drive. We’ll be posting her progress on our blog DezizWorld.com.
At this time cats are not recognized by the ADA as Service Animals. Altho’ we are recognized and protected by certain State, housing and airline laws, this does leave a lot of disabled people who could benefit from the services a cat can provide, wanting. We started writing to bring attention to the fact that animal species other than dogs can be trained to perform specific tasks. And that if the disabled handler used a bit of good judgment with respect to where and how they made use of their Service animals in public perhaps the ADA would rethink their position.
We also try to help people understand the differences between Service Animals, Therapy Animals and Companion Animals. Please, if you have a Therapy or Companion Animal, Do Not pass it off as a Service Animal. That only serves to hurt those with specifically trained Service Animals. A Service Animal blends into their surroundings. That means when they’re in public, they’re calm, quiet unless alerting or performing a task, and always under the control of their disabled handler. Service Animals are Not pets, so remember to ask before trying to pet a Service Animal. You don’t want to inadvertently distract them from their duties.
We do hope you’ve enjoyed learning a bit about us and Service Animals in general. Feel free to contact us directly if you have any questions. And again we would like to thank Jeanne for this opportunity. We hope to see you all in the future.
Love and Hugs and Kitty Kisses
Dezi and Raena