B.C. animal society connects senior cats with senior citizens
VANCOUVER -- A Burnaby, B.C.-based animal society is hoping to combat social isolation in seniors by pairing them up with senior cats.
Shirley Welch, 89, joined the program run by Action for Animals in Distress Society about two months ago and knew right away that Buster, a 14-year-old main coon was the companion for her.
"I just drooled and I didn't even look at the other ones," said Welch.
While Buster was shy at first, Welch said she persisted until he felt comfortable with her and now the two are bonded.
"We just hang out, makes me love him when you get old, not many people love you like that," said Welch.
The two are now inseparable and spend their days cuddled on the couch watching TV while Welch grooms his long coat.
"I do under his chin because when he eats he messes up his hair," Welch said.
Welch is one of about 50 seniors currently a part of the organization's cats for seniors program, which runs solely on donations.
“The majority of people that do adopt are people that want a kitten or a young cat so there is such a large amount of senior cats that are homeless that are euthanized," said Nikki Forbes, president of Actions for Animals in Distress Society.
As a result, she saw an opportunity to pair senior cats with senior citizens.
"Most seniors get depressed, they do want a companion and they just worry in case what if I can't do this, what if I can't scoop the litter anymore what if I get sick," said Forbes.
First she makes sure the seniors can care for a cat.
"We do a home visit to make sure that the senior is able, capable of at least the litter box, feeding, general care of the cat," said Forbes
And then she matches them with a companion, worry-free.
"If the cat gets sick they must call us we will pick the cat up we will take it to the vet we will pay the vet bill and return the cat to the senior. That way we are saving the life of a senior cat and we are giving a senior citizen a companion and a reason to get up in the morning," Forbes said.
For Welch, it's a 5 a.m. wake up call to feed Buster, but she doesn't mind. Welch says Buster has helped her with depression and given her a purpose.
"I wouldn't want to lose him and I don’t want him to go outside and I don't want anything to happen to me," Welch said. "Where else would he go?"
Monica Kelly is a social worker that has been working with Welch for several months and she's seen firsthand how Buster has improved her life.
"You can see that happiness comes over her face and when she speaks about him and she is a little more engaged in her exercise and personal health so that she can keep taking care of Buster," said Kelly.
Their connection is clear but what's Welch's favourite thing about Buster?
"He loves me; that's enough," Welch said.