"There are two means of refuge
from the miseries of life:
music and cats."
It's no secret that the simple process of caring for a cat can be very satisfying and fortify a person's sense of self worth and need. At no point is this bonding more important than in the lives of older people. With their work-life ended and their children raised, the company of a loving cat is especially satisfying. The cat's unconditional love is often the only real tenderness the older adult routinely receives. Yet it is at this point of optimum benefit in the cat/human relationship that cat companionship is most at risk.
All too often, individuals who enjoyed cats earlier in life find themselves living without them in their later years. Perhaps their last cat passed away and they thought they were too old to get another one. Or perhaps they moved to a residential community that did not allow cats and had to give theirs up. For whatever reason, there is an empty spot in their life that only the purr of a cuddly lap cat can fill.
Through our Older Cats for Older People Program we strive to put the joy of cat companionship back into their lives. Utilizing orphaned elderly cats, with lots of lap-sitting experience, we can provide foster companion cats to seniors living alone in the community, while at the same time opening our cage-free cat shelter to senior residential communities for cat petting and visitation sessions. Here's how our program works:
Our Foster Cat Plan places elderly cats with seniors who are reluctant to adopt a cat out of concern for their own longevity and/or the financial commitment involved. Here we provide the cat to them but retain the responsibility (and costs) of veterinary care. The cat is fostered, not adopted, and so it comes back to us when they can no longer care for it. Whenever practical, we also provide a volunteer "buddy" to regularly visit with the senior and the cat.
We Provide the Following:
The Foster Guardian Provides:
Foster cats are available to qualified Washtenaw County residents over the age of 65. Call or e-mail us for complete program information. The Zimmer Foundation reserves the right to change or discontinue this program at any time without notice.
For many years, groups have successfully used dogs to lift the spirits of the sick and the elderly through visitation programs to hospitals and homes for the aged. Although cats are every bit as capable of providing affection and warmth, they have not played a large role in these programs because they don't "travel well" — a foreign setting tends to make them overly curious or overly shy.
Our renovated country farmhouse gives us a unique opportunity to provide a novel cat-visitation program. Instead of taking the cats to the seniors, we can bring the seniors to the cats. In their own home, the cats are calm, affectionate — and happy to be petted. Our open floor plan with wheelchair-access allows us to handle groups — and easily add music and light refreshments. We even have an outdoor deck that's perfect for summer afternoons.
A visit to our "Old Cats Home" is a great way to combine a pleasant country drive with getting to know some very loving felines — making it an event your cat-lovers will purr for. Contact us today if you'd like to bring your group out for an afternoon visit.
The therapeutic benefits of interacting with cats are many — here are a few cited by the Delta Society* — an organization dedicated to cultivating the human-animal bond.