Seniors living at the Burquitlam Lions Care Centre say they’ll fight a decision made by the care home to no longer allow live-in cats.

Phyllis Anderson, a resident of the care home, said her cat Smokey is both a source of companionship and comfort.

“You just look at them and they’ll jump in your arms, and all you’ve got to do is feed them and just cuddle them a bit, and they love that,” she said. “What more would you want?”

Smokey is one of five live-in cats that reside at the home, which has had a pet therapy program in place since the 1990s.

That’s why Anderson and other residents were stunned to find a memo posted in an elevator that stated management would no longer be allowing cats.

“It’s very impersonal, very cold, not very caring,” said Candy Hayter, whose mother lives at the retirement home. “Their physical needs are being taken care of but when your mental and emotional needs are not being taken care of, it will physically make you sick.”

Hayter said management didn’t consult with any of the residents prior to posting the memo.

“Nothing was explained to the people, the seniors that live here,” she said. “They just wanted to sweet it under the carpent and then – oh – they’re gone.”

CTV News tried contacting the manager of the centre but wasn’t able to get a response.

In a letter sent by the care home board, the chairman states that the cats are old and have been neglected. It also outlines concerns that feces has been found in the home, and that some of the residents and staff are allergic to the cats.

But resident John Turcotte said management’s concerns are overblown.

“The cats aren’t a problem,” he said. “They’re definitely not a problem, and they’re so well-liked by everybody.”

Some residents’ family members admitted there were some issues with the cats last year, but now they’ve been fixed.

They said a vet has agreed to provide free ongoing care for the felines, while a pet store will donate food and kitty litter. Volunteers have also agreed to help look after the cats.

A petition has been started online for the seniors to keep the cats and has already attracted more than 2,000 signatures.

With a report from CTV British Columbia’s Scott Bills