Assisted living residents have found the purrfect project
June 16, 2015
Edna White sat petting a calico kitten snuggled in her lap. Occasionally, the kitten would stretch or readjust itself, but for the most part it just slept.
White, 91, of Park City, is a resident at Beehive Homes of Park City, an assisted living facility near Kimball Junction. She and the other 15 residents recently began fostering kittens through a unique partnership with Friends of Animals Utah (FOAU).
However, they decided to keep the calico kitten.
"I rescued him," White said looking down at the cat. "He doesn’t have a tail and we haven’t named him, but he’s ours now."
Two other cats in a carrier near White were meowing incessantly, begging for attention.
Eventually, Colleen Grover, activities director of Beehive Homes, opened the carrier door and pulled out two, scraggly black kittens. She placed them in the laps of two other residents who had gathered in a common area.
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Grover, a self-described cat lady, had always fostered kittens and eventually decided to start bringing them to work. From there, the residents took over, she said.
"I’d bring them home every night, but after a while I ended up leaving them here," she said. "They are so much better cared for here. They get so much more attention and socialization because the ladies are so committed to taking care of them. I have to pry them out of Edna’s hands.
"And we as a staff have all seen how beneficial it is," Grover said.
Kathleen Toth, president of the FOAU board, said the new partnership is "extremely beneficial" to the organization.
As "kitten season" gets underway, FOAU is constantly seeking volunteers to help foster and care for the kittens that find their way to the FOAU Rescue and Rehabilitation Ranch facility. Toth said many kittens are born between March and November.
"We partner volunteers and fosters to care for these kittens," Toth said. "We will receive the kittens and if they are still nursing, their only hope for survival is to be bottle fed."
However, fostering a newborn kitten is time consuming, Toth said, and likened it to bottle feeding an infant.
"It’s every two hours, around the clock," she said. "It’s really hard to find foster families to do that. We have been very fortunate with this and we think it’s brilliant."
Since the residents began participating, the facility has been receiving litters of kittens, anywhere from two to three, and sometimes only a day old. Typically, FOAU takes the kittens back after eight weeks to be spayed or neutered and adopted out.
The new program or "brainchild," as Toth referred to it, could potentially serve as a model for other programs.
"We’ve talked about starting a programs for seniors so these people can still connect with animals in a meaningful way," Toth said.
The original idea was to establish a "Seniors for Seniors" program that would pair older animals with senior citizens in assisted living facilities.
"We have been in the planning stages for that when it didn’t even occur to us that this would be a great partnership for our kittens as well," she said.
It is "definitely a win-win," Toth said.
"We need the help and the kittens depend on it for survival," she said. "We need people with time and these people have a lot of time and love. It’s a meaningful contribution. What a great concept it is."
Toth said her mother suffers from Alzheimer’s disease and when she takes foster kittens to visit her, she "just cheers right up."
"You have community members that have time and lots of love to give and we have kittens who need someone to spend time with and nurse them," Toth said. "What’s brilliant about this is rescuing goes both ways and this proves people still have so much to contribute even in an assisted living facility."
For more information about Friends of Animals Utah or about fostering, go to http://www.foautah.org or contact Lindsay Ortega, director of operations, at Lindsay@foautah.org . The number at the FOAU Ranch facility is 435-608-1424.
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