“Cats for Companionship” Program Unites Homebound Senior Citizens with Furry Friends

MICHIGAN – Area seniors who might be feeling a little bit lonely now have the opportunity to take on a furry companion, and best of all, it’s free!

The Cats for Companionship program is the brainchild of Kati Loiselle and is fully supported by the Humane Society of Bay County. Loiselle, who is 28, had the lidea for the program while in her senior year at Saginaw Valley State University’s social work program. At the time, she was an intern at the Commission on Aging in Saginaw.

“I noticed when I brought up pets to the seniors, a lot of them said they wish they had them,” Loiselle explained. “I came up with this idea for a senior project, as I’m interested in animal rescue as well, as this was a way to put the two ideas together.”

Looking for an organization that would support the project, Loiselle then contacted the Humane Society. The organization absolutely loved the idea, said representative Sherry Nelson.

The project sees the Humane Society placing adult cats with homebound senior citizens, which reduces feline euthanasia while implementing health benefits to their human caregivers. Health perks associated with animal companionship include the following: lower blood pressure, eased anxiety and stress and reduced depression, as well as the obvious affection and entertainment.

“It’s a really good partnership to help some of these hard-to-place cats with seniors who don’t want the responsibility of really owning a cat,” Nelson stated. “We treat the owners as long-term fosters. If something happens to them where they can’t take care of the animal anymore, if they move on to a nursing home or die, we’ll take that animal back and re-home them.”

Several factors go into selecting the right cats for placement.

“No. 1, they have to be people-oriented,” Nelson explained. “The selection goes from there, where they are hard to adopt for one reason or another, maybe their age. A lot of people won’t think about adopting a cat 10 years or older, and there are plenty of them and they need homes, too. Kittens and young cats fly off the shelves. We may also try to place an FIV-positive cat.”

Nelson went on to add that the Humane Society members visit the senior’s home first to make sure they have no other pets and to ensure they can provide basic care, such as giving food and water, scooping out the litter box, and duties like that.

The Humane Society also provides all the basic tools like litter boxes, toys, and food and water dishes. The agency will also cover sterilization and vaccination costs. Once a cat is placed, a volunteer checks up on the adopter on a monthly basis.

The Humane Society placed its first cat with an elderly woman who lives at the Bradley House in Bay City back on June 22. The cat, who is an approximately 10-year-old male named Sweet Potato, was found last winter starving and just wandering around a Bay City apartment complex, Nelson said.

Nelson said their second cat will be placed Saturday, July 9.

“We’re just kind of getting this rolling,” she stated.

Those who may be interested in participating in the program can call Nelson at 989-225-5728, Loiselle at 989-992-1997, Cheryl McKenzie at 989-992-9802, or the HSBC at 989-893-0451.