Meet Juanita Mengel and her five-year-old dilute tortoiseshell cat, Lola-Pearl, an inspiring human-cat amputee duo making a difference through animal therapy. Each morning, Juanita carefully tends to her prosthetic leg, ensuring it is warmed for comfort before embarking on their day of bringing joy and comfort to others. Lola-Pearl, missing her left hind leg, mirrors this routine, highlighting their unique bond and shared experience of overcoming physical challenges.
As one of approximately 200 therapy cat teams registered in the US through Pet Partners, Juanita, and Lola-Pearl participate in animal-assisted therapy, visiting hospitals, nursing homes, and schools. Pet Partners, a non-profit organization, facilitates volunteer teams like theirs, fostering the positive impact of specially selected and trained animals. While therapy dogs are more widely known, therapy cats like Lola-Pearl introduce a captivating “shock factor” to their interventions, encouraging unique connections and conversations. Taylor Chastain Griffin, the national director of animal-assisted interventions advancement at Pet Partners, emphasizes the need for more research on therapy cats, highlighting their potential to inspire human connections in unconventional ways.
Juanita knew Lola-Pearl was destined for therapy work due to her innate ability to connect with people. Lola-Pearl’s intuitive nature shines during visits to support groups, where she brings smiles and comfort to attendees. Lola-Pearl, adopted by Juanita after overcoming her own physical challenges, represents one of seven felines in Juanita’s life, most of whom share disabilities. Through their shared journey, Juanita and Lola-Pearl exemplify the healing power of the human-animal bond, proving that overcoming adversity together can lead to a rewarding and fulfilling experience for both the giver and receiver in the realm of animal therapy.