The words "therapy animal" often conjures up an image of a cuddly dog, but Timba the cat is trying to recreate the image.
Timba is a therapy cat.
He and his partner, Lauri Henry, are trying to make their one small step into therapy work a giant leap for cat-kind.
"I really want them to see what a cat can do," said Timba's owner and partner, Lauri Henry. "Any cat can do this."
Timba and Henry had to pass the same therapy certification evaluation any dog would have to take to achieve the same rank, but their preparation was a little different.
"If you have a dog, dogs are social and people love doggy visits and no one's going to welcome a visit from my cat," said Henry. "They’re different species."
Which is why Henry would bring Timba to his vets office, exposing him to different animals and situations to prepare for his test. It worked.
"He pretty much just sailed through it," said Henry. "It was great, there were lots of dogs and that's part of it, you have to be able to tolerate other species."
After the test, it became very clear; Timba was something special.
"At the end of the test our evaluator went yelling through the halls saying 'we have a therapy cat!' and that's how I knew it was a big deal," said Henry.
He's already accomplished this rare status before the age of 5, but that's only the half of it.
Before the age of 3, he was crowned the 6th Best Cat in the World.
Henry began showing him as a baby, and his rank kept rising. He won many regional titles on his rise to 6th Best Cat in the World.
After the dust settled, Henry decided to retire him from competition as a show cat.
"I didn't really see a point to it, he had a terrific two seasons, some people do continue but in our minds we were retiring him at his peak," said Henry.
But after retirement, he wasn't the same.
"Well it was very obvious to us, to me anyway, that he wasn't himself," said Henry. "He was just languishing at home. He wasn't energetic and animated."
Based on his demeanor while showing, she thought he might enjoy working as a therapy animal.
"For one thing he really tunes into people," said Henry. "He just really, really, tunes into people. He did it in the show hall, he just does it. In the show hall, for example, he just takes a minute to figure out what needs to be done, what is expected of him, and he does it. It's a challenge, and you can see the gears turning and he just tunes in."
Timba regularly does different therapy work.
Timba works with young children at the Rochester Public Library's "Sit Stay Read" program.
The kids read to him.
"I think he's adorable and really fun to read to," said on of the children. "He likes to move around a lot."
He also is the only cat that works with teenagers at Cafe Fuzz at the Rochester Public Library.
"I think it's really the same experience," said 17 year old Abigail LeQuia. "Any therapy animal is going to hopefully be really available to pet and spend time with and every therapy animal I've ever met has been very accommodating if you want to sit there, pet them, and spend time with them."
Timba is even making a difference in more serious therapy instances.
"I had one woman at hospice and she fell asleep with him in her lap and I was told that was the first time she had slept in days," said Henry.
Timba is a Burmese.
He is coming up on his 2 year anniversary of therapy work.
This summer he will have to renew his certification.
But his partner, Lauri, doesn't expect that to be a problem.
Check out Timba's instagram page, here.