By K W Warburton, The Reluctant Spoonie

When I found out that my local cat cafe was running free animal therapy sessions for people with mental health, I signed up immediately. I have visited the Cat Cafe in Manchester (UK) before and found that it was a space where my anxiety just melted away. I love cats (and dogs!), but cannot have my own at the moment and the cats that come into my garden do not want to be friends (even though they keep leaving my gifts). I have found that visiting a cat (or dog) cafe is a great way to spend time with animals when you are unable to have your own.

Read about my Animal Crossing mental health journey here

The ‘Feel Better‘ sessions are run in the evening and typically have less people in them than the usual cafe hours. For the session that I attended, five people had been invited and some had brought a plus one, but there were less than ten people in total. When you are invited to a ‘Feel Better‘ session, you may bring a plus one, but they have to pay the usual price of an hours session which is £12. Drinks are free and you can interact with the cats just as you would during normal cafe hours. These small group sessions are great for those with social anxiety or sensory issues.

cat cafe
Cat cafe booklet with Sigmund Freud quote ©2020 The Reluctant Spoonie

There were ten cats out during the session. Some were more active than others most probably due to the time of the session. However, they all perked up at the end of the session when a member of the cafe staff came in with a bag of food. Cat toys are provided to help you interact with the cats. If you don’t want to interact with the cats, you can read a book and enjoy a cup of coffee whilst watching them sleep or play.

Read more:  How To Ace Your Exams As a Student With A Mental Health Condition

I enjoyed attending my ‘Feel Better‘ session and I did feel better after attending mainly due to the calm and quiet environment of the cafe. Focusing on fluffy cats instead of all my worries eased my anxiety levels considerably. However, these sessions are not to be used in place of medical treatment.

cat cafe animal therapy review
A shy cat on the upper level ©2020 The Reluctant Spoonie

I fully support businesses who are actively taking steps to improve people’s health. We all have mental health and should schedule time each week to take care of it. This could be an hour immersing ourselves in our favourite hobby, catching up with a friend or spending time with animals.

Would I recommend these sessions? Yes. Animal therapy has been proven to reduce stress, improve mood and even lower BP for some people.

The downside? There is a long waiting list. I think I waited 3-4 months to be invited to a session.

How to sign up

Find out more about the Feel Better Sessions here

Is there a local business where you live who offers support for those with mental health conditions?

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