'Kitten Therapy' Program Helps Alzheimer's Patients

 |  May 27th 2011  |   6 Contributions


Elma "Grandma Cuddle" Dye feeds a foster kitten in this screen capture from KBAK-TV video (see the full story below).

A humane society and a northern California assisted living facility have teamed up to give three elderly women the chance to nurture and love kittens in need.

Tehachapi Manor, a residential program for Alzheimer's patients, is fostering a kitten from Have a Heart Humane Society.

It all started three weeks ago when Tehachapi Manor caregiver Lori Harp showed up with Sunny, a tiny orange fuzzball in need of care and attention.

"We thought nurturing a small animal would be good for the ladies," she said.

The "kitten therapy" has indeed been a great help -- and lots of fun -- for Elma, Bev and Jane, the women staying at the facility.

"Everybody wants to care for the kitty," said Harp. "(They) make sure the kitty is fed, make sure it's safe, make sure the kitty is being loved."

Elma Dye, also known as "Grandma Cuddle," especially enjoys caring for the little one. "I love most of all the way they curl up and go to sleep," she said.

"It really helps the ladies," said Harp. "To take care of something else during the day, to give it love and kindness."

Sunny has given residents the ability to remember how to feel, says Harp.

"Even though they don't remember what's going on, as long as they remember those feelings -- the feelings of fun, the feelings of laughter -- that's the most important thing to an Alzheimer's patient, and they feel that here," she said.

The program has worked out well for the Have a Heart Humane Society, too.

Sunny, or Tom as Elma calls him, will be going to his new home on Monday.

"Fostering is something you can do that not only helps your community with the cat and dog problem, but it's also considered fashionable now," said Chelley Kitzmiller, the humane society's director.

The ultimate goal of the Tehachapi Manor and Have a Heart partnership is to socialize the kittens and get them big and strong enough to be adopted. And the program is working.

Sunny, the manor's current foster, is going to his new "forever home" on Monday, and Tehachapi Manor will take in two new kittens to foster.

See the full story in this news clip from KBAK-TV:


(If you can't see the video, watch it here.)

[Sources: KERO-TV and KBAK-TV]

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