January 12, 2018 2:48 pm
Updated: January 12, 2018 7:36 pm

Cat’s out of the bag: Calgary airport adds feline friends to pet therapy program

The Calgary International Airport is one of the first airports to deploy therapy cats to calm the nerves of travellers. The program launched in 2016 with dogs, but felines are now purring away to help passengers have a better trip. Reid Fiest reports.

A A

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!’”


Story continues below

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.

READ MORE: Edmonton airport welcomes therapy dogs to calm 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.”

READ MORE: Vancouver International Airport helps travellers to manage stress with dog therapy program 

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.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Report an error

Comments

Want to discuss? Please read our Commenting Policy first.

Global News