Dogs have long been the heroes as service animals that help people with medical conditions or disabilities, but cats have similar keen senses. Cats may also detect seizures in humans and alert a caregiver. Read on to learn more!
Stories About Seizure-Detection Cats
More and more stories are cropping up about cat companions alerting owners and caregivers to impending seizures with excellent accuracy, including a famous case of Lilly, a cat in Bournemouth, England, and her owner, Nathan Cooper.
When Lilly senses a seizure coming on, she runs to alert Nathan’s mother, typically within five minutes of the occurrence. During one of Nathan’s severe seizures, Lilly licked his mouth until he began to breathe again.
There’s another well-known story in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Katie Stone, a radio producer, adopted a kitten (Kitty) for her daughter, Emma. After three years in the family’s home, Emma had a sudden seizure, prompting the cat to stand on her, yowling and crying.
It wasn’t a one-time occurrence. Kitty continued to alert Emma’s parents when she had seizures. Emma is prone to complex partial seizures, which are difficult to detect as they have no characteristic full-body jerking movement. According to the neurologist, Emma was fortunate to have the cat to alert her parents to the subtle signs.
Can Cats Be Trained as Service Animals?
There are plenty of organizations that train dogs to help with medical conditions like seizures, but service cats are less common. Unfortunately, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which provides legal recognition for service animals to assist ill or disabled people, only recognizes dogs and miniature horses as service animals.
In the strictest sense of what a service animal is, a cat can’t be a service animal due to the ADA designation. Anecdotal evidence suggests that cats can be trained to detect seizures and alert owners, but more research into cats’ capabilities and training is necessary.
However, just because the law doesn’t recognize cats as service animals doesn’t mean they can’t help in an unofficial capacity. Cats can be trained to take on several of the tasks that service dogs and mini horses do, including moving wheelchairs, opening doors, dialing 911, and detecting seizures to assist an owner.
The challenge comes more with training a cat to perform these tasks than its capabilities, though. Generally, cats are not as receptive to training as dogs, and some may lack the temperament to perform these tasks effectively.
Aside from performing as service animals, cats can develop special bonds with their owners and help them feel better when stressed or upset, which makes them suitable as emotional support animals.
A few standout stories show that cats are capable of detecting seizures and alerting caregivers, even without being trained to do so. Still, cats are not recognized by the ADA as suitable service animals and may have limitations to training, so more research is needed before they can become a valid option for people with illnesses or disabilities. Otherwise, cats make excellent emotional support animals and can be helpful in an unofficial capacity.