There’s an unusual member of staff at Mount Gambier Headspace in South Australia. None of the uniforms fit him, but he prefers to work without clothes anyway. The health centre offers help and support to young people with their mental and physical well-being, drug and alcohol use, and work and study issues.
Doc Leopold, a two year old Ragdoll cat, has been working there for a year now, specialising in counselling and anxiety. His owner, Kym Galluccio, who also works at the centre, says that the effect he has on clients is something humans are rarely able to match.
Staff report that the young clients are more relaxed when Leopold is around and more likely to be calm and able to talk.
“It gives them a bit of an incentive to come out [of their shells], especially when there’s difficult things going on.”
Doc Leopold will work in both one on one sessions and group therapy. Clients say that he helps get the conversation flowing and that group sessions are more sociable when he is around.
Ms Galluccio has said that as he gets older they will look into getting him officially certified as a therapy animal.
Ragdoll cats have been bred to be placid, affectionate cats. However, other cats are equally suitable to turning a paw to medicine, whether that’s a former feral cat providing therapy on an intensive care ward, or a hospice cat that stays beside patients in their final hours. There’s even a Polish cat who works in a veterinary clinic!