Air travel can be stressful, with long layovers, missed connections, and the sardine can known as an airplane. A group of furry friends at one airport does their best to help passengers smile, and they’ve just set a world record.
Denver International Airport’s Canine Airport Therapy Squad (CATS) program has been recognized by Guinness World Records as the largest airport therapy animal program, with 87 members as of 2021. They’re almost all dogs, but one cuddly feline, Xeli, does her part to ease travelers’ anxiety, too.
In an Instagram post, the airport said, “We are paws-itively thrilled and so proud of our volunteer teams who donate their time to provide our passengers with smiles and cuddles!”
The program launched in 2015 with 28 members. In just seven years, that has tripled, with more than 40 breeds represented. The animals roam the airport in identifiable violet plaid vests that say “Pet Me.” Travelers are invited to hug, pet, or take pictures with the crew. All the animals are registered with a pet therapy association and trained.
While the program had a COVID-19 hiatus, air travel has picked back up in 2022, and CATS has logged more than 1,250 hours so far this year.
With regard to the program’s efforts, Adam Millward, managing editor of Guinness World Records, says, “Whether it’s with a lick, a nuzzle or some amusing antics, our four-legged friends have an amazing ability to make us smile – even when we might be feeling stressed or anxious. The Canine Airport Therapy Squad at Denver Airport have taken this innate skill and run(a)way with it. It’s a pleasure to be able to recognize the hard-working dogs (and, of course, not to forget, Xeli the cat), as well as their owners, who selflessly give up their time to brighten the day of thousands of travelers every year.”
The next time you’re traveling through Denver, be on the lookout for these stress reducers in a vest. You can also follow the airport on Instagram to see CATS updates. Or pupdates?