Kali-Ma the Cat at Medlilodge Nursing Home

Nursing Home Cat Therapy

Cat Therapy for the Seniors

Numerous articles, blogs, and research that I have recently read all agree that pet therapy, including Cat Therapy, has many benefits for Nursing Home Seniors. According to http://www.caringpeopleinc.com some of those benefits include:
  • Improved communication

  • Improved ability to reminisce

  • Pets can encourage and motivate seniors to stay healthy and get more exercise, which also gives them the feeling of being needed

  • Many senior citizens who are unresponsive to other forms of therapy tend to feel livelier and chat more with their pets 

After numerous phone calls this week, and much perseverance, I decided that Nursing Home Cat therapy would be the best fit for Kali-Ma. So, I found a two nursing homes that was willing to see us this weekend. On Saturday morning before the light rose through the rolling clouds over through the trees outside our balcony I had trimmed Kali-Ma’s nails, brushed her teeth, and combed her fur to a gloss. Kali-Ma then sat at the top of the stairs and waited until it was time to go.  She waited there three hours. Don’t ever think animals don’t know because they KNOW!  

 The First Cat Therapy Interview

We walked into the elegant lobby of the first nursing home and the ambiance was breathtaking. I was told by the desk clerk to wait in the lobby. When I turned I almost bumped into the grand piano with Kali-Ma’s stroller.  As I looked around I saw many people reading, talking and dogs walking about with owners on leashes. One man looked over and said to me “your baby has a lot of hair on it in that buggy there. “  They had fresh cut pineapple floating in ice water in a container for everyone to drink.

The interview and tour were interesting. Everyone was polite and smiled. It was a large facility that provided several levels of care and in one unit they had their own cat (Kali-Ma sniffed that out immediately and was not impressed!). Throughout the tour, Kali-Ma and I road different elevators at least three times.  I kept getting that look from Kali-Ma as if to say “one more of these rides and we are going to have a problem!”. 

As it ended, we were given documents to complete and return. Upon review, if accepted we could be part of their volunteer team. I remember thinking as we were leaving if nursing homes were cruise ships this was a Royal Caribbean. I also had a feeling inside that they didn’t really need us.

Kali-Ma’s Cat Therapy Journey Begins

Kali-Ma at Medilodge Nursing Home
Kali-Ma at Medilodge Nursing Home

Next, we drove into the broken down parking lot of the second destination. The sign for the nursing home was aged and in need of a fresh coat of paint. As I pulled Kali-Ma in my arms to put her in her stroller I held her for a moment and whispered, “hold onto your harness baby girl because this place needs us and it may not be easy”.  We walked in the door and the activities director waved her arms open wide with a smile of joy and said “look at who we have here! A kitty!”. I gave her our vaccination papers and we went right on in and Cat Therapy began!

Kali-Ma the Cat doing Cat Therapy at Medilodge Nursing Home
Kali-Ma the Cat doing Cat Therapy at Medilodge Nursing Home

We were immediately taken to all the patients that loved cats. She repeatedly told us how excited she was that we were there. Kali-Ma met so many wonderful patients. Each one literally came to life at the sight of Kali-Ma in her stroller.  

One woman told me she had (15) cats before she had to come live there. Another Asian woman pointed to Kali-Ma and spoke but I couldn’t understand her. Her family explained she was saying “kitty”. There was an abundance of moments that touched my heart. Too many to write here today, and they all had me holding back tears.   Each time I tried to take a picture of someone they began talking about their cat, or asking about Kali-Ma. Every person was so engaged with her.  And the smiles on each and everyone’s face. It was incredible!   

In-between patients the staff told Kali-Ma how cute, beautiful, and precious she was. One nursing aide touched my arm and said “This is really nice of you to bring her here. We appreciate it”.  Again, I had to choke back my tears. I wanted to tell that woman it was she that was the one to be appreciated. She was giving of herself every day there.  I felt blessed just to be a part of it for the little while Kali-Ma and I were there. I glanced over and there was Kali-Ma in here little pink polka dot bubble of love stroller waiting for the next person to pet her, or talk to her. She was in heaven too!

At the end of our visiting, we went back to the Activity Directors’ office and established a regular schedule for Kali-Ma and me to come back.  We got to talking about what I had experienced there and how much Kali-Ma and I enjoyed it.  She told me about the new facility they were building next door and the changes they were making.  It was all very exciting and I felt really honored that Kali-Ma and I were going to be a part of it all.

She also told me about how much she loved the work she was doing there. One thing led to another as it usually does, and she shared with me how she made a major career change after being in the same position for twenty-five years, very much the same way I am attempting to do in my life now. We were kindred spirits, and I saw Kali-Ma once again leading me to where I needed to be. Making new friends, and experiencing an overwhelming joy from sharing my time with others that I cannot even find the words to put on paper. Apparently “Cat Therapy” isn’t just for the elderly after all!

Until next time…Happy Tails to you!


About Author

Gloria Tripp

Owner of Tails of Kali-Ma LLC where I blog about the tales of Kali-Ma the therapy cat. These tales include cat care tips, cat stories, and cat life lessons based on my life with Kali-Ma as part of a cat therapy team. I am a registered therapy animal owner, freelance copywriter, aspiring author, and lover of everything cats!


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    1. Thank you so much. I am hoping that more people with cats that have the appropriate temperament become therapy cats. There is a real need for them in Nursing Homes, Hospices, and many community areas. I appreciate your comment. Happy Tails to you!

      1. Marilu Shellie

        I live in a home in a retirement community which also has an Assisted Living Building as well as an Alzheimer’s facility on campus. I foster for our local SPCA and a while ago I came across a 4 month old tabby which was very mellow and cuddly. I thought he would be an ideal candidate for a therapy cat. I leash trained him with a harness and started taking him daily to the Independent Living building where the residents live in apartments. The main floor has a cafe/grill, a library, meeting auditorium, main lounge and other facilities. This young cat eventually became acclimated to these surroundings and became the darling of the residents. After 7 weeks I took him up to Assisted Living after his paperwork had been cleared. He did fairly well with those residents, but he was unfamiliar with the surroundings and the extra activity going on and was obviously uncomfortable. I took him up many more times when it was quiet, especially in the early evening, to simply walk the hallways and public rooms. He never got over being antsy. He learned that the outside doors opened automatically by going near them so the last couple of times we went all he did was struggle to get to the doors to get out. He then started acting the same at the Main Building which previously he had liked. Noises now seemed to startle him! He’s a little over 6 months old and I have given up on him as being a therapy cat. I noticed you brought yours in a carriage. Could that be where I failed in his training? Any advice you can give will be greatly appreciated. I so do want them to have a “resident” therapy cat here! Thank you.

        1. First of all thank you so much for writing to me and honoring me with your precious story.
          There is no failure. Each cat is a unique and precious being and your kitty sounds wonderful!
          Kali-Ma and I have been together for going on 8-years now so it has taken me a long time to build our “team” relationship. I love her more than anything on this earth, but at the end of the day she is a cat and she has her “special” ways.

          When I began walking Kali-Ma outside I found that “noise” was her biggest fear. She loved being outdoors but if a strange noise came along she was terror bound. That was when I first got the stroller you see in all of the photos. It also helped as she will only go so far, maybe a block and then that’s it! LOL! I often want to walk further and the stroller was a nice way for us to walk together. The stroller has a screen that I can put down when it’s summer and the bugs can’t get to her, or if she wants to be hidden from children.

          That brings up my next point. My cat likes dogs, adults, and older people. She does not like children and loud noises. She never has since I adopted her. This is why the nursing home environment is “puurfect” for us! 🙂 Each cat has their own preferences, likes, and dislikes. There is a dog at the nursing home that often comes to visit a patient there. It is no issue for Kali-Ma as they get along fine. We really found our place there and I know that you will too.

          Back to the stroller. The stroller is Kali-Ma’s “safe place”. When we are in the nursing home I never let her walk on the floor. She is always in my control. Before I put her in the stroller, I prepare it with a little bit of organic catnip spray. This relaxes Kali-Ma. When I enter the nursing home I stroll the halls in her stroller. The stroller also has a nice leash inside it to secure her to her harness. this gives Kali-Ma time to acclimate to the noises and see a view patients in the halls. I then take her to the activities center where I have her blanket that I put on a table. She lays on the table and I allow the patients to pet her one at a time. I give her 10-minute breaks about every 30 minutes. She goes back and lays in her stroller while I chat with the patients. When they ask what is the kitty is doing I say “kitty is resting” and they usually understand. I do this so she doesn’t get overstimulated. We are usually there about two hours total.

          This is what works for us. You may need to find what works for you and your kitty. I have a link to stroller and the catnip spray on my website under the Cat Therapy Section if you are interested.

          Don’t give up! Cats bring so much joy to the elderly. I have seen what Kali-Ma does just by being there. Happy Tails to you and your kitty!

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    1. My best advice to you is to contact Stephen at Aspiring Bloggers . He actually did most of the work on my site. I WAS on a Wix platform and getting next to no traffic and at all. I came across Stephen on Facebook and he convinced me to transfer to WordPress. I now have doubled my traffic and my site looks GREAT. I cannot say enough good things about him. He also has many great articles that are easy to follow on how to improve your blog! Happy to help – anytime! All the best to you!

  5. That is so sweet of you and Kali to spread joy to those in need.

    1. Tailsofkalima

      Thank you so much Ellen. Kali-Ma and I receive so much more than we are giving. Kali-Ma especially loves all the petting, and adoration she is getting! Thank you for your positive feed back. 🙂

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