Cat Cuddling Program Brings Together Shelter Cats and Seniors
A few months ago, volunteers at Katie's Place, an animal shelter in Maple Ridge, British Columbia, were thinking about how they could give the cats in their care a better life.
Although they wanted to do their best by their feline charges, they realized they simply didn't have enough hours in the day to meet all the cats' needs.
The volunteer-run organization's staff was so busy scooping litter boxes, dispensing fresh food and water, and doing all the cleaning needed to keep the shelter sanitary and healthy, that they didn't have the time to provide all the love and cuddles the cats needed.
But then they came up with an idea that would improve the lives of the cats in their care and benefit the community at large.
It started with the notion that it might be possible to put Katies Place cats together with some of the senior citizens in the community, especially those who weren't able to have a pet cat in their own residence.
Out of these initial musings came the Grandmeows and Grandpaws Program.
The program works like this: Seniors pick a time during the week that works for them and spend an hour or two at the Katies Place shelter, spreading love and goodwill among the feline residents.
Grandmeows and Grandpaws has proven to be a benefit to both cats and seniors.
The cats get love, play, treats, one-on-one attention and the company of people who really want to be with them. The seniors get plenty of purrs and love, the affection of contented cats that seek our their laps for a cuddle and lasting health benefits.
A 2008 study by researchers at the University of Minnesota suggested that cat owners are less likely to die of a heart attack or stroke than people who don't.
The US Centers for Disease Control reports that pets can decrease blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and depression. They can also alleviate feelings of loneliness and increase opportunities for socialization.
The Grandmeows and Grandpaws volunteers make a point of trying to visit all nine of Katies Place rooms in order to share their time and cuddling with as many cats as possible.
There are chairs, benches and sofas in each room, and on each porch so that cats and visitors can lounge comfortably together.
"Its wonderful to see all the happiness that fills the shelter on the days when the seniors visit," says a shelter volunteer.
The cats, many of whom have led lonely and difficult lives, love every minute of time spent with them by the Grandmeows and Grandpaws.
Many of these animals have not had a kind human hand touch them in years.And in return for their kindness, humans get the kind of unconditional love that only an animal can give.