Cat Therapy for the Seniors
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
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!
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!