Source: ABC News (Extract)
Posted: February 11, 2023

Matt Green grew up in the “doggy world”, so he never expected to have such a connection with cats.

“My parents went to dog shows all over Tasmania,” he said.

“Mum’s got Boston terrier dogs. She’s bred [since forever]. She’s got a couple of world champions.”

Matt and his partner Adele work at a cattery — basically, a hotel for cats.

Guests have their own room, equipped with high windowsills, clawing posts, cat toys and even a TV.

“We’ve got fish videos, we’ve got bird videos, and they do like the cricket and tennis,” Matt said, mimicking how the cat’s heads swung back and forth as they watched.

“I have a really good thing with Bluebell. She’s a Siamese, and she is just absolutely beautiful.”

Matt’s daughter and her partner bought the cattery in a rural area outside Hobart 16 years ago.

The original owners were looking for someone to run the business as well as live on the seven-and-a-half-acre farm, and although he was not a cat person, Matt’s wife Adele knew it would be just the thing he needed.

“I’d leave in the morning, and I’d always think to myself, ‘I wonder what he’s going to be like when I get home’, because he’d just sit in his armchair,” she said.

“So, to come here — it was just so good.”

Working with cats to beat the black dog

After working with the State Emergency Service, Matt was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

“Since I have no bandages, they can’t see that I’m hurting,” he said.

“Even after 20 years, it still hurts.”

He said that the cats had helped him and his family to cope with the changes in mood often associated with PTSD.

“Isn’t that funny? We’re working with cats and [depression is] the black dog.

“If I feel a bit of depression going on, I’ll get my bike over here as quick as I can, and I can deal with it within 10 minutes. So that’s great, rather than going on for days.

“It’s amazing, [the cats] know when I’m not well or when I’m having a bad time.”

Multiple studies have shown that cats understand human emotional signals. In a study completed in 2020 for the peer-reviewed scientific journal Animals, cats could even match sounds of laughter to a happy face and sounds of frustration to an angry one.

A study published in the scientific journal Behavioural Processes showed a majority of cats preferred interacting with humans even more than they enjoyed eating.

Emily Hillhouse was volunteering at a cat shelter while studying to be a vet nurse.

“I walked in, and I saw Honni. And I was like, oh, okay, I’m gonna get you,” she said.

Since then, with the help of a lot of treats and catnip, she has trained her cat Honni to walk on a lead.

She said having a cat helped with her borderline personality disorder.

“Having a cat keeps me in routine, which is really important with BPD. So I have to get up in the morning, feed her and make sure she has clean water.

“When I’m having a panic attack, she’ll come over and she’ll sit on my chest and she just purrs and lets me stroke her until I calm down.”

Emotional support animals do not share the same protections under the Disability Discrimination Act as service or assistance animals.

This makes it hard for someone with an emotional support dog to find a rental, let alone a cat.

“As soon as you say I have a cat, they just go no,” Emily said.”And even if you say like, ‘Oh she’s house trained’, they go, ‘No, no cats’.”

She said the best solution was to write a “cat resume”.

“Which sounds really strange but it was like just a page long,” she said.

“I had little photos like a job application, but it was just about my cat.

“When I found this place, it said no pets allowed on the ad. And then when I sent them the cat resume, they were like, ‘Yeah, okay, that’s fine’.

“I think just that so many Australians would be able to benefit from having a cat as a therapy animal and that it shouldn’t be so difficult to find a place to live just because you have a pet.”

Matt said life was an ongoing rollercoaster, but the cats would get him through.

“After my PTSD calmed down, I found out that I had MS (multiple sclerosis),” he said.

“I’ll just spend more time over here with the cats, I don’t even worry about what’s going on. I’ll leave that up to the surgeon and the doctors.

“I’ve had some bad days, dark days, you get through it. Life’s like that. Lows, highs, lows.

“The support from your family and your friends. That’s what gets us through. And the cats.”