'A chance to feel less stressed': Kitten therapy comes to SFU
Published Wednesday, November 30, 2016 5:47PM PST
Students at Simon Fraser University took a study break with a "purr-pose" on Wednesday, at a therapeutic event that brought dozens to a small room on the Burnaby campus.
SFU teamed up with a Vancouver-based cat rescue group to launch a three-day-long "kitten therapy" pilot project.
The event is meant to help students ease the stress of impending exams, by taking a break to play with a quintet of wriggly, curious kittens. On the first day of the event, more than 100 students lined up before the kittens arrived, and dozens more arrived in the first hour.
Organizers said some eager students lined up as early as 40 minutes before the event began, and one said he expected he'd have to turn people away because there wasn't enough time for everyone to get to play. Students were led to the kitten room in groups of five, one person per kitten to keep them from being overwhelmed, and given about five minutes of playtime before the next group came in.
The kittens were brought in by the Vancouver Orphan Kitten Rescue Association (VOKRA), a group that rescues cats across the Lower Mainland.
SFU called in puppies for a similar event last year, and again earlier this week, but this is the first year that it's tried a similar strategy with kittens.
"Cats are more independent and endlessly entertaining. They're just sort of clowns. Cats are funny," said VOKRA volunteer Barb Mount Poulsen.
The idea behind the event was to help students take a break during what can be the most stressful time of the school year, but it also may help VOKRA find forever homes for some of the cats in its care.
This year brought an influx of kittens to the Vancouver area, an issue Mount Poulsen said is partly due to the mild weather.
"When the weather is mild cats reproduce at a greater rate, so it was a really bad year for kittens," she told CTV News.
"We always get a lot of cats, we typically rescue over 1,500 cats a year, but this year the prevalence of kittens was through the roof."
Mount Poulsen said this year more than 100 pregnant cats were brought to their organization, rescued from the streets of the Lower Mainland.
"With a birth rate of five kittens on average per adult, we had 530 kittens born in our care this year. That's a lot of kittens," she said.
VOKRA hopes the event will encourage people to adopt, something that is desperately needed with so many kittens currently looking for homes.
"Some are more shy and some are outgoing, we have kittens for every family type. We still have lots of kittens around this age and younger in care and available for adoption," she said.
But the group also needs volunteers, including those who would work from home on administrative tasks, and they also need donations to help care for the kittens.
"We are desperate with this many cats coming in for donations," Mount Poulsen said.
"We're almost completely volunteer-led, so your donations go directly to the cats. So you're paying for food, litter – and possibly most importantly – spay and neuter."
She said spaying and neutering is a priority because kittens born in the street who aren't rescued only have a 25 per cent survival rate.
"It's really upsetting to know that former pets aren't spayed, then are left behind, abandoned, to give birth in the most terrible conditions," she said.
"We want to make sure we're not repeating this cycle year after year."
Kitten therapy is available to SFU students and staff Thursday and Friday, between noon and 2 p.m. Those looking to donate, volunteer or adopt a kitten can learn more on VOKRA's website.