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Denver Airport gets a furry hello

The Canine Airport Therapy Squad (CATS) at Denver International Airport (DEN) in Colorado, US has welcomed a new member to its team, but this time of the feline variety.

“Our CATS programme has been extremely popular with passengers since its inception in 2015, and what a purr-fect way to take the programme to the next level by introducing our first feline, Xeli,” said Kim Day, DEN’s CEO.

“Just like all of our dogs, Xeli will visit passengers on our concourses, bringing joy and comfort to passengers of all ages,” Day added, explaining that Xeli and her handler, Nathan, are volunteers.

While visiting passengers in the terminal and on the concourses, Xeli will be kept on a lead, but passengers will be encouraged to pet and take photos with her. The idea is that animals working within the therapy programme will offer relief to those passengers suffering from the stress and anxiety that travelling can sometimes cause.

DEN’s CATS programme is one of the largest airport programmes with more than 79 dogs representing 39 breeds and, as of 13 October, one domestic short-hair cat. The programme is designed to help delight and comfort passengers travelling through DEN and each of the CATS team has his or her own trading card that included facts about them, including their ‘pet peeves’.

Each dog or cat in CATS is a family pet and is selected after an interview and testing process, which shows them to have a calm, friendly demeanour in public. Each pet must also have therapy experience at another facility before serving at DEN and the animals and their owners must be trained, registered and insured by certified therapy organisations.

In addition, all CATS volunteers complete DEN customer service training and field evaluations to ensure the airport’s busy environment is a good it for both human and animal.

Animals working within the squad can be easily spotted as they are dressed in blue vests with the words ‘pet me’ written on them.

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