The Salvation Army Centre of Hope in north Edmonton has four new furry residents.
Leroy, Freddie, Wilson and Dr. Bob are all cats with new leases on life as live-in pet therapists for people in need.
Freddie the tuxedo cat moved into Grace Village supportive living centre in September after staff noticed something magical happening on field trips to a cat cafe.
After seeing the smiles on residents faces, staff thought having a resident cat would lift the mood of their 72 clients permanently.
David Russell loves watching Freddie every day.
“He can jump like crazy,” Russell said.
The two-year-old cat was adopted from the Edmonton Humane Society, where he’d been waiting for a home longer than any other feline.
“Freddie’s profile said that he needs a multi-person household with lots of interaction, high energy. I thought it sounded perfect for this place because there’s so many people,” explained resident care manager Rachel Wells.
When Wells went to meet him, she knew he’d be a perfect match.
“He was so friendly he was trying to come out of the cage. Purring and headbutting,” Wells said.
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“It is a companion, it helps you through troubled times,” Russell said, as he stroked Freddie. “He’s a pretty good cat.”
Freddie is rewarded for his work with lots of treats.
“At the humane society, they said he wasn’t really eating too well and since he’s moved here, the vet has come out twice to check him and he’s gained a bit of weight,” Wells said.
The staff also enjoy Freddie’s company. Overnight, he hangs out in the nurses lounge.
Across the parking lot, there’s another furry friend at the Grace Manor elder care facility.
Residents there got a persian kitten, who they named Leroy, in November.
Velvet Andriuk grew up with cats and dogs, and absolutely loves cuddling Leroy.
“We let him run around and I pet him a lot,” she said. “He’s the nicest little cat you ever had.”
She checks in on him morning and night.
“I go and I say goodbye to him before I go to bed,” she laughed.
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Leroy’s a popular guy.
“Every morning when I arrive at work, the residents are outside of his room, looking in, asking how he’s doing, when he’s coming out,” said recreation therapy manager Alix Norum.
“He attends all of our recreation programs daily. He participates in our physical games, our morning exercises, our arts and crafts. He loves the remote control cars.”
At night, Leroy gets to play with tons of toys in his own private room.
Staff say his presence has made a big impression on the 100 seniors at Grace Manor.
“The socialization aspect has been wonderful to see. A lot of our residents that are quite isolated in their rooms, we’ve noticed them to be coming out more. Our residents have been exercising, walking up and down the halls to check on him every day,” Norum said.
“Leroy has just been a blessing to us here at Grace Manor. The residents — it’s the highlight of their day. The pet therapy aspect has been wonderful.”
Dr. Bob, a deaf all-white cat, is part of the Salvation Army’s Keystone program, providing sober living for men.
Wilson the cat provides comfort to women requiring safe, sober housing with the Cornerstone program.
“I highly recommend any seniors or mental health site to consider having a pet, as it brings such wonderful joy to the residents every day,” Norum said.
“It’s something for them to look forward to and have a quality of life.”
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