Health & Care

Sanctuaries for Seniors

Special retirement homes and sanctuaries offer senior cats who have lost their loved ones a permanent, homey environment to comfortably live out their golden years. In every respect, they go above and beyond for elderly felines.

Sandy Robins  |  Mar 11th 2021


Blue Bell Foundation for Cats

The Blue Bell Foundation for Cats nestles on the green hillside on the winding Laguna Canyon Road in Laguna Beach, California. It can accommodate 60 residents and offers care to senior felines in a tranquil, forever-home setting thanks to animal lover Bertha Yergat, who founded the organization and willed her beautiful Laguna Canyon property to it in the late 1980s. Pamela Knudsen, who handles communications for the organization, says, “There’s a designated feline dining room and spacious sleeping and napping accommodations throughout the home with special perching places, a bunk bed, sofas, all with steps for easy access especially for the cats with arthritis. There is also a special section of the property reserved for cats with special medical needs.” And safe outdoor enclosed areas allow the cats to nap in sunshine and enjoy the sounds of nature. Most residents come to Blue Bell when their pet parents pass away, Pamela explains. “Our Lifetime Care Program fee per cat is $7,500, which covers housing, medical care, food and lots of love from staff and volunteers. Cats have also come to us when their pet parents have to move to assisted living housing or who are sick and can no longer care for their pets. We also provide a forever home for unadoptable senior cats with special needs,” she adds. The Community Cat Fund underwrites costs for the unadoptable senior shelter cats that come to live at Blue Bell. More at bluebellcats.org.

Hearts That Purr Feline Guardians

Jeanmarie Schiller-McGinnis, founder and president of Hearts That Purr Feline Guardians, purchased an 8-acre property in Tucson, Arizona, in 2013 that backs onto a desert landscape. This feline retirement center is currently home to 25 cats. The organization also oversees senior cats living in private homes as part of their Senior Kittizens foster care program. Jeanmarie explains, “They are not adopting the cat; ownership of the cat remains with Hearts That Purr, and we maintain responsibility for all veterinary care including transportation. Initially, we supply all the essentials a new cat needs, such as a litter box, scratching post, food bowls and toys. Essentially, in terms of our Foster Care Agreement, the foster parent is providing a safe home, a warm lap, love and attention for one of our felines for the rest of its life.” Hearts That Purr Feline Guardians only accept elderly cats who have become homeless due to their owner’s death, illness or incapacitation. It will also step in when a cat has already been surrendered to a municipal shelter. The average age of residents is 17, while the oldest resident to date was 24. Learn more at heartsthatpurr.org.

CATS Cradle Shelter

The CATS Cradle Shelter in Fargo, North Dakota, has a long-term care foster program for senior cats to live out their care in the comfort of a typical domestic setting. “The carers of our senior cats are given whatever they need for the cats in their care, such as low-entry litter boxes, steps or thick beds,” says Co-Founder and Executive Director Gail Ventzke. “There is a resident senior named Burbank who is our office cat at the shelter,” Gail says. “She is nearly 20 years old and in kidney failure. When she came to us, our veterinarian said she didn’t think she would survive a week because she was so sick and so thin. That was a year and half ago. She is still happily camping out in her bed next to the main desk, loved and very spoiled by all.” CATS Cradle operates on donations, which also cover their high special veterinary diets and medication bills. Check out catscradleshelter.org.

Belleglen Sanctuary

Established 21 years ago, this sanctuary is home to 35 to 40 cats. Two thirds of the current residents are over 12 years of age, and four of them are 16. “Belleglen will adopt out cats under special circumstances, but most of them have health problems and are not really adoptable,” explains Donna Kemp, president of Belleglen. “Typically, we are dealing with kidney failure, chronic bowel syndrome, stomatitis, chronic heart failure, diabetes and arthritis.” Like other senior feline residences, the sanctuary focuses on creature comforts with ramps for easy access to litter boxes and cat furniture of different heights, along with a wide range of washable cat beds. To help cover costs, the sanctuary has sponsors for individual cats for whom they receive individual information and pictures. The website also details how to buy and sell on E-bay and benefit the sanctuary as well as designating them as an organization of choice on Amazon Smile. More at belleglensanctuary.com.

Milo’s Sanctuary & Special Needs Cat Rescue

“Cats come to us from all walks of life, eleventh hour rescues from shelters where they have been listed for euthanasia, to being flown to us from Egypt, Turkey and even Mexico,” says Michele Hoffman, president of Milo’s Sanctuary, Inc. (also known as Trueheart Haven) in Burbank, California. “We often work with other local rescues that have a special-needs cat and will give them two of our adoptable cats in exchange for one of their special-needs cats.” Michele explains that it gives the adoptable cats a chance at finding forever homes, freeing up space at a rescue that may not be able to deal with long-term special needs. Senior residents are about 16 and older. The team provides ramps for the cats to access couches and windowsills, as well as low-entry litter boxes. Two fully enclosed catios are accessible to all the special-needs or elderly cats so they can safely go outside, bathe in the sunshine and listen to the birds. The organization operates solely on donations. More at milossanctuary.org.

Sandy Robins is an award-winning, multimedia pet lifestyle expert, author and pet industry personality. Her feline muses, Ziggy and Tory, like to disrupt the workflow by demanding games of fetch with wand toys and directing food operations in the kitchen. Learn more about Sandy at sandyrobinsonline.com.