Cats for Comfort Program

A win-win-win for seniors, shelter cats, and students



Cats living in shelters across the country and seniors living in adult care facilities have two things in common. The first is a need for additional companionship. Although staff at shelters and adult care facilities do their utmost, seniors and unadopted cats can still sometimes feel lonely.

Something else they share is a tremendous capacity to love. Cats adopted from shelters commonly transform into social and emotional champions in a forever home, while seniors living in adult care facilities most often have so much to give in caring for and loving others. Many of these seniors happen to be long time cat lovers who would be very happy to still have a feline friend, but face challenges in acquiring and caring for a pet cat.

The potential benefits that seniors living in adult care facilities and shelter cats can provide for one another recently sparked a motivational flame for us here at the Cornell Feline Health Center. We decided to put our efforts into creating a mutually beneficial arrangement for seniors and cats, the Cats for Comfort program. We envisioned that we could provide the contacts and support to facilitate adoptions of shelter cats by interested seniors living in adult care facilities.

We were very fortunate to have three innovative and open-minded institutions that do excellent work in their respective areas to partner with right here in Ithaca. The Tompkins County Society for The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (TCSPCA), Longview Residential Living Community, and the Ithaca College Gerontology Institute were all very eager to work with us to organize a unique program focused on facilitating adoptions of cats from the TCSPCA by residents at Longview.

With assistance from members of the Cornell Feline Club, a student-run club comprised of veterinary students with interest in feline medicine, and undergraduate students in the gerontology program at Ithaca College, we had our first Cats for Comfort adoption event at Longview in March of 2016 and the second in May of 2017. They were quite successful: students provided guidance and assistance to seniors during the adoption process and have continued to provide regular follow up and care afterward. The relationships established between the seniors, cats, and students in this unique program are truly inspiring.

Encouraged by these early results, we look forward to expanding Cats for Comfort, and have plans to broaden its reach locally at another senior living facility in Ithaca. Our long-term goal is to continue expanding locally, and then to explore expanding the reach of this innovative program regionally and perhaps even nationally. By connecting cats and seniors, and providing support for the adoptions, we continue to work toward our goal of a better world for cats while also benefitting senior cat lovers.