Pets Who Comfort and Heal Forgotten Veterans When They Need it Most

Veterans Day is a great reminder of the sacrifice that our veterans made, but each day, veterans are still fighting wars on their home soil — wars like unemployment, homelessness and mental illness, to name a few. Turns out, pets might be our veterans’ best line of defense.

Tom the Calm and Cool Cat

Tom looks like your average short-haired tabby cat, but Tom isn’t just lounging around Salem’s VA Hospice in Virginia for nothing. Tom is a feline caregiver, and he comforts veterans, and their families, when they’re dying.

Source: Veterans Affairs/Marian McConnell

When Dorothy Rizzo, the palliative care coordinator at the hospice, rescued Tom from an animal shelter four years earlier, she had an inkling that a cat would give dying vets some semblance of home during those last, trying days. After all, as my favorite mug reads: “Home is where your cat is.” But Tom proved to be so much more.

To the vets and families of the VA Hospice, Tom is a source of peace, comfort and joy. As Rizzo explained to Veterans Affairs:

Tom has known what to do since the first day he was here. There’s something about the presence of an animal that has a calming effect. Watching the cat or petting him takes you out of the sad moment you’re in.

Like Oscar the Cat before him, the cuter and cuddlier version of the Grim Reaper, Tom also has the uncanny ability to know when the end is near. But many families have enjoyed Tom’s presence. A cat gives anxious family members who feel helpless as they wait for death something else to focus on. By getting family members outside of their grief, Betty Gillespie, the VA Hospice psychologist, agrees that a calm cat like Tom is the best antidote for sadness. As Gillespie told Veterans Affairs, “Tom’s like a good piece of music. He instantly connects with everyone in the room.”

Source: Veterans Affairs/Laura Hart

No doubt that Tom’s calming presence helps the vets transition, too. Like we learned from the timeless bond that Cleo the Cat and her elderly guardian, Nancy, shared when Cleo tracked her down in a nursing home, senior citizens physically benefit from the presence of cats. According to Animal Wellness Magazine, a cat’s purr can hold the key to helping joint and respiratory problems. Many swear that a cat near their head helps or eliminates migraines. Because of their innate calming cat mojo, cats have been shown to lower blood pressure.

Toms Not Everyones Speed, But Theres Always Fido

But veterans don’t have to be old, sick or on their deathbed to need healing. There’s something that we don’t talk enough about: the young and (physically) healthy veterans who are suffering right now. Tom’s a cool cat and all, but he admittedly might not be everyone’s speed. The good news is that there is an animal in need for every veteran that needs one.

According to Natural News, pets, exploring nature and yoga therapy can all relieve posttraumatic stress syndrome (PTSD), and make the readjustment to civilian life easier. Plus, it’s easy to combine all three. After a long hike with Fido, veterans can unwind with doga (dog yoga).

The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs agrees. They recommend dogs as pets for those with PTSD. Dogs can also act as service animals or emotional support animals.

The VA describes that dogs help veterans, including those with PTSD, by:

– Bringing out feelings of love and connection.
– Being constant sources of good companionship.
– Taking orders. A veteran who became accustomed to giving orders could thrive in this familiarity.
– Being an outlet for fun and relieve stress.
– Forcing veterans to get out of the house (and out of their heads), so veterans can socialize more.

Young or old, I hope veterans seek the comfort of any animal. Veterans don’t need to fight all of their battles alone. Plus, there’s no shortage of animals that need homes and to be needed.

Photo Credit: DVIDSHUB


Jim Ven
Jim Ven3 years ago

thanks for the article.

Jonathan Harper
Jonathan Harper4 years ago


Jennifer Hayes
Jennifer H4 years ago

Pet therapy can work wonders for vets and in care homes. In needs to be more widely accepted in facilities.

Rosemary Diehl
Rosemary Diehl4 years ago

Animals are so intuitive. Thank you hospice for allowing animal love to be gifted to the dying

Angev GERIDONI4 years ago

NEW THREAT on Petropolis animals, they need again your help
to stop a project of a vivarium for laboratory. You know what's
happened to the horses in the streets outside, imagine for pets in cages. Please sign the new petition here :
STOP Petropolis vivarium project

Angev GERIDONI4 years ago

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ DON'T BUY IN A SHOP - ADOPT A SHELTER PET ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Angev GERIDONI4 years ago

★ ★ ★ GREAT NEWS ★ ★ ★

Warren Webber
Warren Webber4 years ago

Live long and prosper

rita uljee
rita uljee4 years ago

great idea go for it!

Carole R.
Carole R4 years ago

Wonderful program. There is nothing like a furry friend to raise your spirits.