Heather Rutherford wasn’t — and still isn’t — sure if she’s a cat person, but her cat, named Taz, is definitely a people person.
The three-year-old male domestic short hair is one of the first feline additions to YYC Calgary International Airport’s pet therapy program which started with K9s in 2016.
“People kind of see the dogs first and say, ‘Oh! There’s dogs?!’” Rutherford told Global News.
“Then they look up and, ‘Oh! There’s a cat!’”
Rutherford is a volunteer with PALS, the Pet Access League Society.
A couple times a week, she and Taz roam the terminal building, helping to calm the nerves of travellers.
Taz joins one other cat, and about 50 dogs, that are part of the program.
“The typical reaction is: ‘I can’t believe your cat does this! I can’t believe they’re this calm… this relaxed,’” Rutherford explained.
It may seem trivial to some to be able to pet an animal, but for passenger Aarin Merkle, who was on the terminal floor crying because her flight was cancelled, Taz cheered her up.
“I thought it was amazing,” Merkle said.
“It was nice that the cat was there. It was really relaxing.”
Melissa Kaiser agreed. She was trying to get on a cruise but her travel plans fell apart.
“To be honest, seeing that cat has really made my day. I’m missing my animals already. It’s just taking away some of that stress.”
As Calgary adds kitties to its ranks, Peggy Blacklock, the airport’s manager of the program, joked she’d be open to other animals.
“Well, you know, for Stampede it would be wonderful to have a miniature horse here!”
PALS is responsible for accepting applications for pets and assessing if they’re a good fit for public spaces like airports.