We often hear about the positive impact pets can have on older people, and nobody knows this better than Janine Rogerson from Benetas Dowell Court aged-care facility in Victoria. This heart-warming Happy Tail about Bonnie the cat speaks volumes about the health and well-being benefits of cat adoption for seniors. After recently being involved in adopting a feline friend for the residents, Janine saw firsthand the joy and positivity they bring.
“We’ve had cats in the past, and they’ve been a big part of the group. When our latest cat passed away, a majority of residents immediately voted for us to find another,” explains Janine. After spending some time checking in on the local rescue groups and shelters, she came across Bonnie, a gorgeous white domestic short-hair.
“I showed the residents a few photos of Bonnie and they were very excited. We held a competition to name her and all the residents voted. Bonnie won by a landslide over Maggie and Maisie.
“We had to wait a week or two until Bonnie was vaccinated and desexed, so when the big day arrived, we took a bus-load of residents out on a trip to pick her up. There were even a few spats on the bus between residents over who was going to hold her first!
“Bonnie was in her cat carrier and meowed indignantly the whole way home, much to our great amusement. She was given lots of soothing rubs through the bars - I had to ensure that I kept moving the cage so that everyone had a turn patting her.
To make sure Bonnie was given the space and time to settle into her new home, Janine put her in the beauty parlour. The residents were all so excited by the new arrival, clamouring to spend time with their new feline housemate, Janine spent much of her time escorting small groups into the beauty parlour for pats.
The next step was getting Bonnie used to the whole hostel. “We wanted to keep her indoors for a few more weeks, but give her the freedom to roam the hostel" says Janine. “Bonnie would sit patiently beside a door and give the ‘who’s going to let me out’ look. It didn’t matter too much, however, as Bonnie never ran away. She knew she was onto a good thing with the warm beds, food and lots of cuddles.”
The opportunity to have a furry and loving companion warmly embraced by the residents, with Bonnie’s positive impact clear from the start. As Janine explains, having a cat around the place can spread an immensely positive feeling.
“Many residents have to surrender their own pets when they come to live in aged-care and miss them dreadfully. Having Bonnie about the place has helped enormously. She strolls around and curls up alongside anyone who’ll have her. She’s just part of the family now.
“When someone is having a bad day or feeling lonely, we invite Bonnie in for cuddles and pats. You can often see their whole mood lift straight away.”
Bonnie now participates in many of the residents’ group activities, often becoming the centre of attention. “If she happens to come into the lounge during a sing-a-long, we have to sing ‘my Bonnie lies over the ocean’ to her,” laughs Janine. “At first she was indifferent and kept walking, but now it’s almost like she knows we’re singing to her and she stops and gazes around at everyone. When we clap at the end, she knows it’s her cue to carry on and off she goes! She is treated like royalty by many residents, with several telling me to keep my voice down in an activity I’m trying to run, just so I don’t wake the cat!”
In her short time staying at Benetas Dowell Court, Bonnie has had an immensely positive impact on the residents living there. The health benefits of cat adoption, for the mind, heart and soul, are immeasurable, especially when it’s so easy to care for a cat. By providing a source of joy and laughter, as well as comfort and cuddles, Janine says that having a pet has given many of the residents a purpose.
“Caring for and playing with Bonnie has become a reason to get out of bed in the morning for many. We have had nothing but positive engagement since Bonnie came to live at Benetas Dowell Court!”
If reading this Happy Tail inspired you to consider adopting, we have thousands of adorable cats waiting for their forever homes right now.
You can help us keep saving pets too, by making a donation to our rehoming programs. It costs just $10 to match one of our rescue pets with their new family.