SPH staff volunteers take part in cat-assisted therapy session in hospital

SINGAPORE - Madam Siti Aminah Siregar used to have 24 cats at home in Johor Bahru, and playing with therapy cats at the Ang Mo Kio - Thye Hua Kwan Hospital reminds her of them.

"We get to see different cats each time, and they are very extraordinary ones," said the 70-year-old. "Cats are very understanding. They know when you're in a bad mood or feeling down."

She was one of about 40 patients at the hospital on Monday who participated in the therapy session, conducted by Cat-Assisted Therapy Singapore. They were joined by 15 staff volunteers from Singapore Press Holdings (SPH).

This is the first time that the group, which runs monthly cat therapy programmes at the hospital, is collaborating with a company to conduct its programme.

While it started out with only two cats in 2013, the group now has about 30 therapy cats, belonging to its volunteers.

Each therapy session, inwhich the patients interact with the cats, involves four to eight cats and about six volunteers. "I think it's a new and unique activity," said Ms Chin Soo Fang, head of corporate communications at SPH. "This allows people to see the gentler side of cats, and helps them to destress."

Ms Samsiah Hassan, pre-press technician at SPH, said: "I think that it's good interaction for the patients and cats. Instead of lying in bed, they get to move around and interact with the animals."

According to Mr Mohamad Sharil Abdul Rahim, founder of Cat-Assisted Therapy Singapore, the cats have a positive effect on patients. Playing with the felines also improves their upper body strength.

He said: "It's a fun way to conduct rehabilitation."

byseow@sph.com.sg