A Victorian animal shelter has changed its adoption policy to allow aged care facilities and its residents to adopt homeless cats.
State organisation Cat Protection Society of Victoria has allowed its senior cats, which are older than five and typically harder to find a home for to be rehomed into aged care facilities.
Cat Protection Society of Victoria CEO Ian Crook said the program was developed due to concerns that older cats were not being adopted and also to benefit aged care residents.
“We were concerned that older cats were staying with us for too long because ideally we’d like to move animals from here to new homes as quickly as possible,” Mr Crook told Australian Ageing Agenda.
He said the program offered an opportunity to enrich the lives of both cats and residents living in aged care.
Younger cats are unable to be adopted into aged care facilities because can be too playful and energetic and get in the way, Mr Crook said.
“Kittens, for example, are very playful and people love them, but there’s a risk they would be stepped on. Because they’re not mature and fully developed there’s also the risk that they might misbehave,” Mr Crook said.
An assessment is undertaken ahead of the adoption to ensure the cats match the residents and the facility, Mr Crook said.
The assessment process is “understanding who is in the aged care facility and assessing the temperament of the animal,” he said.
“Staff will decide and determine whether that particular cat will be okay in such a facility,” Mr Crook said.
An animal behaviouralist is also consulted to ensure the cat suits the facility.
“Older cats are particularly reserved, individual and can look after themselves. But it’s still important that there is a match,” he said.
Mr Crook said the program is in its early stages and has re-homed three cats to date under the new policy.
“We’ve placed three cats in facilities and that’s a start. It’s not huge but it’s beneficial. It will catch on once aged care facilities know they’re prepared to do it.”
For providers unable to adopt cats, the shelter provides a community program, which involves taking cats to visit aged care facilities monthly.
“Dogs visit aged care facilities and other institutions all the time and there’s no reason why cats shouldn’t,” he said.
Animal Welfare League Australia president Richard Mussell said there was a wealth of research showing that pets were beneficial to older people.
“If implemented properly, pet-friendliness also encourages uptake of services, provides market differentiation benefits, and boosts the consumer reputation of providers,” Mr Mussell told AAA.
Allowing pets into aged care facilities will reduce surrenders to animal shelters and rescue services, Ms Mussell said.
“Upwards of 4,000 companion animals are surrendered annually in Australia because of their owner’s elderly-related problems.”
Implementing a pet policy, pet application and agreement form, health checks, design considerations and preventative health care are among the ways aged care facilities can be pet friendly, he said.
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