Meet London – the Pets as Therapy Cat who cheers up people when they’re laid up in hospital.
The 16-month-old kitty has been trained to walk on a lead and harness so he can go into the Royal London hospital and comfort animal loving patients.
London and his owner Isabel Serafim are both volunteers for Pets as Therapy, a charity that provides therapeutic visits to people in hospitals, hospices and care homes.
Most of the animals involved are dogs, but Isabel decided to see if her cat could volunteer after her dad’s friends, all aged in their 70s, flocked to see London’s photos on Instagram.
She explained: “London has an account and my late cat Lisbon did too, and my father’s friends loved seeing the photos and were forever commenting. It made me see the joy pets bring.
“I took Lisbon to be assessed by Pets as Therapy and sadly his temperament wasn’t right, and he passed away just before his fourth birthday.
“When I got London, I trained him as a kitten so he would be able to be a therapy cat. He learned how to walk on a lead and wear a harness, and he’s so placid around people.
“We live in an apartment on the 15th floor, so I take him out every day and the neighbours love seeing him on his lead and come out to give him treats.
“He’s very sociable and confident, so I was thrilled when he passed the assessment.”
Isabel, 41, who works in IT, approached the volunteering team at the Royal London Hospital to ask if he could visit people on the wards and they agreed.
She has to follow certain protocols, so London must always be on his lead and if he goes on a bed with a patient he sits on his own blanket.
Each patient must have a chaperone while with him and before and after stroking him they use hand sanitiser and he’s not allowed in any isolation areas where there is risk of infection.
People often message him on Instagram on his account @mrlondonmeow to ask if he can pay their friends or relations a visit, and he’s won 6,000 followers with his cute poses.
London also has an array of outfits including hundreds of ties and bow ties, a shirt and jumpers that he wears while on duty.
Isabel makes a special effort to celebrate holidays like Easter and Halloween and at Christmas, he posed online in a different festive jumper every day!
Isabel said: “Many people in hospital will have a cat or dog at home that they miss terribly so seeing him is a real tonic.
“He sits quietly with the patients and they can stroke him or give him cuddles. It’s like a playground for him and he loves his visits.
“We saw one lady who had suffered a stroke and was in hospital for three months, and I became very close to her and her family.
“Another man had been in an accident and lost his right arm and badly damaged his left arm and when he first met London he was in a lot of pain and distress.
“The next week as he was slowly recovering he told me that just for five minutes while he was with London he was able to forget the pain he was in and what had happened to him.
“He comforted one lady in palliative care and her grand-daughter messaged to tell me that seeing London had been one of the few moments she had seen her grandmother smile again.”
Pets as Therapy Cat London is also well travelled and has been on holiday to Lisbon in Portugal, where Isabel’s family live, as well as France, Sweden and the Netherlands.
He has a pet passport and Isabel wants him to see as much of the world as he can.
He has carry cases so he’s comfortable on planes and trains and is always safe in his harness and lead when they go exploring.
She said: “London brings me so much happiness and it’s lovely for him to be able to do the same for others.”
Do you think your cat might have what it takes to be a Pets As Therapy Cat?
All breeds of cat can become part of a PAT Team, they must have been with their owner for at least 6 months, be over 9 months of age and be able to pass the temperament assessment.
All pets must be fully vaccinated and volunteers must be over the age of 18 and living in the UK.
To request a cat visiting team application pack please visit the Pets As Therapy Website.
Pets as Therapy also have a scheme where children can read to animals. Find out more here Pets As Therapy Read2Dogs.
If you enjoyed reading about London, you might like to read How Rolo went from Puppy Farm to Pets As Therapy Dog, How Olaf the Zante Stray is now a Pets As Therapy Dog and Meet Doug The Pug Therapy Dog.