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Feline blue? Kitten goes on city wide adventures for therapy cat training

'An animal can make you happier. It can stave off mental health issues'

04 July, 2019 — By Tom Foot

A KITTEN in Belsize Park is training to become Camden’s first “therapy cat”.

Quita, who is fast becoming an internet sensation through an Instagram account following her every move, is taken on daily outdoor trips to help her build confidence and settle mentally.

The idea is she will be able to cheer up lonely, isolated and disabled people being cared for by Penrose Care, based in Belsize Lane.

She has already visited eight of London’s parks, met the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and comedian Ricky Gervais on her adventures around the city, and this week travelled down to the beach at Brighton. Penrose

Care managing director Robert Stephenson-Padron said: “When most people engage with an animal they like, it tends to release happy hormones into their brain, which has a lot of anecdotally positive effects. An animal can make you happier. It can stave off mental health issues.”

He added: “We didn’t know people would love her so much. Elderly and disabilities is not always a subject that is easy to make appealing. “If we can get that message across with a cute cat then that’s great.”

Camden has one of the highest rates of elderly residents living alone and many are looked after by carers in their homes.

Quita the kitten has also visited the Apple store in Covent Garden, Oliver’s Village Café in Belsize Park and Persephone Books in Holborn.

Mr Padron said advice on training “adventure cats” was to regularly take them to parks, adding: “My aunt, who is a nurse in California, has a therapy cat. The idea is they are mainly out and about while they are young, so they don’t get stressed. Quita has been on the bus and the Clipper [river bus] and to all the parks in London. I have also been raising animals all my life – I’ve had cats, dogs, turtles, fish.”

Bob Padron on a stroll with Quita

He said: “I wanted to get an animal involved at the office for a few years now. Working with the elderly and disabled is very enriching, but the administration side can be boring. We wanted to make it uplifting and fun, so we thought: let’s get a cat. “When she was very young the only animal she got to know was Coco, my parrot. She sees Coco as a maternal figure.”

He said he wanted to nurture a “utopian world” with “conscious animals” that were not “aggressive predators but very peaceful”.

Meeting Ricky Gervais in Hampstead High Street and, below, a day out on Hampstead Heath

It is hoped Quita’s therapy cat training will be complete by January 2020 said Mr Padron. Quita gets her name from an American brand of bananas, Chiquita.

Founded in 2012, Penrose Care, which was rated outstanding by the Care Quality Commission in February, was the first in Camden to pay its staff a London Living Wage.

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