Retirees + Kittens = A Perfect Match

For most of us, the idea of spending our retirement in a home can be a mixed bag. On the one hand, we get taken care of hand and foot, but on the other hand that means that we have reduced mobility and options for entertainment.

Still, being in a retirement facility can have its perks, especially if you live at the Catalina Spring Medical Care Center in Oro Valley, Arizona. Here, the residents are participating in a remarkable program that is giving new life to the idea of retirement.

How are they doing this? By bringing in orphans. No, not the ones you’re thinking of, unfortunately. While the idea of little children spending time with the elderly can be somewhat inviting, the orphans that are coming to Catalina Spring are much hairier and much smaller. They’re kittens.

The idea came from Rebecca Hamilton, who is the health services director at the center. According to her, having homeless kittens come to the retirees was a natural fit. “These are people who are home. They are not working. And sometimes, they are lonely. They have love to give; they are very open to receiving love.”

Because being a retiree can mean spending your days sitting by the window and working on your canasta skills, it was only natural that the residents of Catalina would be looking for something more fulfilling.

As soon as the kittens arrived, the people were ecstatic. According to Rebecca, everyone lit up once the furballs came in, and they immediately responded with positive results. So far, the program has been a resounding success.

Not only is it helpful for the retirees, but it does wonders for the cats as well. Because they are only a few weeks old when they arrive, the kittens need constant care and attention. While animal shelters are able to take care of many of the orphans that they receive, it’s helpful to have others assume the responsibility every so often. The retirees are more than happy to put in the effort, meaning that it is a win-win situation.

So far, Rebecca is working with Pima Animal Care Center (PACC) to get the kittens. At first, they weren’t sure how everyone would react to each other, so the shelter only sent two cats. However, it became clear immediately that more would be needed, so the next month a whole batch of little furballs arrived, much to the delight of Catalina’s residents.

The way that the program works is that PACC sends baby kittens to the retirement center, where they are looked after until they reach two pounds. Once cats are at that size, they don’t have to be fed as much and they are ready to be adopted. So, residents of Catalina will watch over the babies for up to eight weeks and then send them off to find a home.

While saying goodbye can be hard, the retirees can take solace that once the first batch is ready, a new one will take its place. So far, things are going swimmingly, and Rebecca would love for the idea to catch on.

“That is clearly my hope,” she adds. “When kitten season starts up in full force, I hope rescue groups will reach out and form partnerships with memory care units and group homes and that a lot more lives can be saved. And a lot more joy can be brought to the lives of seniors.”

For many people, going from working full time to having nothing to do to fill your day can be jarring. A sense of malaise can set in, as each day blends into the next. This way, you have something to do, and you’re helping those in need, which not only improves morale but can have positive impacts on physical and mental health as well.

We hope that this program catches on nationwide, and we salute Rebecca for championing such a worthy cause in the first place. Although, we have to admit, we’re kind of jealous. Taking care of kittens all day sounds like a dream come true. Is it too soon to retire?

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