AUSTRALIA – Senior high school students around the entire nation are midway through the most stressful year of their academic lives and for some the pressure to perform can be terribly overwhelming.
One Canberra school has gone ahead and invited a local kitten rescue to bring cats into the classroom in a unique bid to mitigate pre-exam anxiety.
Student counselor at St Francis Xavier College, whose name is Donna Lambert, said the cats were let loose in a shared study room used by the senior students.
“They had their books open, they had kittens in their laps, and they could just come together, relax and bring the blood pressure down,” she stated.
“It’s a better environment to get ready for their next exam.”
Year 11 pupil Eleanor Cocks stated that interacting with the cats calmed her down after she finished an exam.
“I had my religion exam this morning and then I just came in here and I’ve been with the cats ever since,” she explained.
Therapy pets are becoming quite an accepted tool for mental health maintenance.
Animals have been used in everywhere from nursing homes to hospitals. to trauma counseling centers.
So-called comfort dogs are also trained to offer gentle contact and interaction with humans and have been available to survivors and relatives affected by the recent mass shooting in Orlando.
But using animals to defuse stress in schools is pretty much a new technique in Australia.
Counselor Donna Lambert is the one who came up with the idea.
“I decided to look outside the box for a way for the students to relax,” she stated.
‘No matter how bad their day, you can see them relax’
A local kitten rescue provided all the cats, as well as animal carers to supervise the sessions.
Kath Crawford from Flossie’s Kitten Rescue explained she has seen the calming influence cats could have on stressed-out humans.
“I’ve had everything from tears to students falling asleep under cats,” she stated.
“They come in and sit down and no matter how bad their day has been, you can just see them relax.”
The kittens were free to wander and roam around the classroom, perching on laps or laptops at will as the students peruse their study notes.
The kittens benefit from all the attention too, getting valuable socialization time before they move out of foster care and into permanent homes.
All of the kittens that visited the school are presently up for adoption – quite a temptation for any students looking for a life-long study buddy.