Skip to content

Denver Airport’s CATS program claws its way into the Guinness World Records book

Sept. 18, 2022
5 min read
dog in airport
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

The stress-busting dogs — and one cat — that greet passengers at Denver International Airport (DEN) aren’t just cute and cuddly. They’re now officially world record titleholders.

The animals and their handlers are part of DEN’s Canine Airport Therapy Squad (CATS) and the program now has a spot in the Guinness World Records 2023 book. The category: Largest Airport Therapy Animal Program.

In 2021, when Guinness fetched the data for this category, DEN’s CATS program had 87 animals in its animal therapy program — giving it a (furry) leg up on all other airports.

Sign up for our daily newsletter

For more TPG news delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

“We are extremely proud of our CATS program and grateful for all the volunteers who donate their time to bring joy to our passengers and employees,” said DEN CEO Phil Washington. “And we look forward to welcoming even more teams as we continue to grow this beloved program.”

DENVER INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT

How did CATS clinch the title?

About 90 airports around the country have animal therapy programs. And, according to DEN spokeswoman Stephanie Figueroa, Guinness initially reached out to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), which hosts the Pets Unstressing Passengers (PUP) program.

LAX and DEN have always gone back and forth for the largest airport animal therapy program, and at one time LAX had 123 teams in the PUP program, said Heide Huebner, director of volunteers and the PUP program at LAX. “But Covid really affected us.”

Some volunteers moved out of state. Some dogs aged out or passed away. And in 2021, when Guinness was looking at numbers, Denver had more teams than LAX. LAX currently has 75 teams, 12 new teams in the onboarding process and interest from others.

“I know we will be neck and neck again with Denver for the largest program,” said Huebner. But in the meantime, “The LAX PUPs send a big congratulations to the Denver CATS program for winning the title for largest program. It feels good that LAX was there to help you start your program and we are very proud of you.”

The competition could remain fierce. DEN’s Figueroa says the airport is always working on growing its program with new volunteer teams and expects to be able to hold onto the Largest Airport Therapy Animal Program title.

Beyond the listing in Guinness World Records 2023, Guinness gave Denver International Airport a certificate noting its world record title. Guinness doesn’t allow those certificates to be copied, so Denver International Airport hasn’t decided yet if it will display the original certificate in the terminal for the public to see. For now, the news of the award is on the CATS page of the Denver International Airport website, which also features photos and information — such as breed, birth date and pet peeves — about each CATS member.

DENVER INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT

While it is currently the largest airport therapy animal program, Denver’s animal therapy program isn’t the first. That title goes to San Jose International Airport (SJC) in California, which began hosting therapy animals shortly after the events of Sept. 11, 2001. Today, that program has 25 dogs and two cats that visit with passengers in the terminals.

At San Francisco International Airport (SFO), an animal therapy program launched in 2013 and is known as the Wag Brigade. In addition to dogs, the team includes a pig and a rabbit.

DEN airport’s CATS program began on Oct. 29, 2015, on National Cat Day, with 28 members from 14 breeds. The program was put on pause during the pandemic but has since resumed, with teams donating more than 1,250 hours of time so far in 2022.

All CATS members must be registered with a recognized pet therapy association. The program currently includes 84 members representing 33 dog breeds as well as one cat, along with their human handlers.

As with animal therapy programs elsewhere, the CATS program is designed to provide stress relief and delight passengers. In CATS terminology, each pet wearing a plaid “Pet Me” vest just wants to make traveling “a little less ruff.”

“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,” said Adam Millward, managing editor of Guinness World Records. “The Canine Airport Therapy Squad at Denver Airport has taken this innate skill and run with it. It’s a pleasure to be able to recognize the hard-working dogs as well as their owners, who selflessly give up their time to brighten the day of thousands of travelers every year.”

Featured image by DENVER INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

TPG featured card

Best starter travel card
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

1 - 3X points
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
1XEarn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases

Intro offer

Earn 80,000 ThankYou® points60,000 points
For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

Annual Fee

$95

Recommended Credit

670-850
Excellent, Good
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases
Best starter travel card
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
1XEarn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

    Earn 80,000 ThankYou® points
    60,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $95
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent, Good

Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases