Care Homes Start Fostering Kittens
Residents in nursing homes and care homes can benefit greatly from pet therapy, which has been shown to improve their quality of life and give them an extra interest, but now there are nursing home projects that combine helping residents with helping the animals too. One US nursing home has formed a partnership with an animal care centre, that has major advantages for both parties.
Orphaned kittens need a great deal of care and attention if they are to grow and thrive. The Pima Animal Care Center takes in over 2,000 kittens every year, some of which are only a few days old. They can need bottle feeding several times in 24 hours and it is difficult to find enough volunteers to do this and to ensure that the kittens are socialised. This is where residents at Catalina Springs Memory Care can help.
Residents with memory problems and dementia usually rely on other people to care for them, so it is very rewarding for them to know that they are making such a difference to these tiny kittens. The natural caring instincts of the residents come into play, and they are really aware that they are saving the lives of kittens and enabling them to be suitable for rehoming when they are older. By bottle feeding and holding the kittens, residents gain a real sense of purpose, and the process often stimulates memories of their own pets. Naturally, the kittens also benefit from nursing home projects like this, as there are more people able to provide the care they need at this vulnerable stage in their lives, and because they receive so much love and attention, they become very friendly and well socialised.
It is important that nursing home staff are also involved in caring for the kittens and supporting the residents to look after them.
Benefits to individual residents
Some of the residents at Catalina Springs Memory Care can be quite withdrawn and reluctant to communicate, but fostering the kittens has changed all that. Greg Moore, a resident with Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease is a good example of how therapy animals can make a difference. Previously, he would rarely talk to anyone, but every day now he takes two of the kittens, Turtle and Peaches for a walk around the home, carrying one under each arm. Greg’s wife has noticed the difference the arrival of the kittens has made to his quality of life.
Staff have noticed how interacting with the kittens in care home projects like this has helped some of the residents to communicate much better than they previously could. People who struggled to speak a sentence are able to express how they feel about the kittens. Stroking and holding the tiny kittens can also calm agitated or stressed residents and help them to feel loved and cared for.
As well as kittens, adult cats can also have a beneficial effect on residents. Not all nursing home projects are planned, as staff at one facility found when a stray cat wandered in and decided to take up residence. The cat, named Oreo, is settled and happy in the home and the residents love having her around.