Cornell Feline Health Center

Older man petting grey cat

Older woman cuddling with cat

Older man with cat on shoulder

Cats for Comfort: Coordinated Cat Adoption by Seniors

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February 25, 2015

We are thrilled to be partnering with the Tompkins County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) and students from both Cornell’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Ithaca College’s Gerontology Institute (ICGI) to provide cat adoptions to residents of Longview, a residential senior retirement community located in Ithaca, New York. The Cats for Comfort program has the potential to improve the lives of seniors and cats, and could eventually be expanded to other facilities regionally, nationally, and internationally.

According to most recent estimates, approximately 3.4 million cats enter animal shelters nationwide each year. This burgeoning population places extreme stress on an already overburdened shelter network, resulting in the euthanasia of approximately 1.4 million cats annually.  Increasing adoption rates for cats in shelters can provide considerable relief to our network of animal shelters while improving the lives of individual cats.

The benefits of pet ownership for the physical and psychological well-being of elderly people have been repeatedly demonstrated. Studies have shown a variety of positive effects of interaction with companion animals on the elderly, including greater levels of activity, attenuation of loneliness, and decreased risk for certain diseases. Given the significant potential health benefits that pets provide for elderly individuals and the relatively small risks associated with owning a pet, pet ownership is an attractive therapeutic tool to promote the well-being of elderly individuals.

In our Cats for Comfort program, we’re partnering with the Tompkins County SPCA, ICGI, and the Feline Club at Cornell’s College of Veterinary Medicine to match appropriately screened cats from the TCSPCA with Longview residents for adoption. The team will meet with Longview residents on February 25 to help residents complete adoption applications. TCSPCA will review all applications and on March 5, will bring prescreened cats for an adoption event at Longview.

If the program is a success, we plan to expand the effort to other retirement communities in our region and draft guidelines for other organizations around the country – and possibly around the world – to carry out similar programs to benefit the lives of cats and seniors alike.