Quita, an energetic Abyssinian mix, came into Robert "Bob" Stephenson-Padron’s world just a few months ago. At first, her purchase was mainly an effort in making the office environment at Penrose Care a little more enjoyable, by bringing a ‘happiness officer’ into the mix. But soon, Bob noticed Quita’s outgoing personality and love of people had so much more potential.
Therapy cat in training
Indeed, though it may seem surprising for a cat, Quita loved EVERYONE she met. When people walked into Penrose Care, she would always go up to greet them. She even sat next to candidates during job interviews!
“The idea of training her to become a therapy cat came originally from my aunt, Carlotta Lincoln, who is a nurse in California, USA. Therapy cats are more common in the US than in the UK,” Bob told Wamiz.
Since then, Bob and Quita have been working hard on her manners. By taking her out every day, Bob is trying to make her comfortable in all sorts of changing environments, and in contact with all kinds of different people.
He transports her around the city in a pet stroller, and whenever she feels like stretching her legs, he walks her on the lead!
Although she has yet to obtain a Pets as Therapy certification (which she can only achieve once she reaches one year of age), she’s already changing people’s lives all around London.
“I take her all around and the amount of instant smiles and joy she brings to people from all ages – whether it’s a very young infant or very elderly people we see on the street - I mean, they instantly light up.”
Animals’ roles in mental health
Bob has had animals his entire life, and strongly believes that they can play a huge role in humans’ happiness:
“Animals can be powerful mitigators against tendencies towards mental health issues such as depression and anxiety,” he affirmed.
Studies have indeed shown that 87% of people who own a cat feel it has a positive impact on their wellbeing, while 76% say they coped with everyday life much better thanks to the company of their feline friends.
For Bob, a lot of that comes from the fact that taking care of animals can take us out of the stressful societal loop we have been pulled into: “It is a completely, at least economically, un-productive activity.”
Bringing us back down to earth then, helping us relax and slow down, but also combatting solitude, a growing epidemic, especially in big cities like London.
Quita’s guest appearance at Café Conversations
Café Conversations is a growing initiative in London. The free event aims to help people make meaningful connections by kick-starting lively, interesting conversations on a variety of topics and ideas. The Thames Clippers are joining in the movement which is already proving popular in Chiswick.
“As Quita’s primary job is to help people feel better, what a better activity than for her to help open up a cafe to help combat loneliness. Hopefully she’ll offer an unusual topic for attendees to help strike up conversations with people they’ve never met,” says Bob.
And since Quita has been on the Clipper before, she’s no stranger to setting sail on the city’s river!
Assisting in this event on World Mental Health day is particularly important to Bob and Quita particularly because of their work at Penrose Care, a home care provider for the elderly and disabled.
“Quita’s work on World Mental Health Day and every day is an outgrowth of Penrose Care’s commitment to human dignity and the wellbeing of our staff, clients and indeed our wider community,” Bob told Wamiz.
“Quita helps spread joy and love in the world, that can never use too much of both!”
Well done Quita, for all your hard work in making people happy! Keep spreading the joy!