Cat companionship serving to Calgary seniors deal with isolation

CALGARY – Two-year-old Lily, a foster cat from the Calgary Humane Society, arrived at Silvera’s Valleyview Senior community two weeks ago and quickly made herself home.

The cat has become a friend to residents and staff, which was badly needed during a pandemic that resulted in illness, death, and isolation.

“She’s a treasure,” said resident Bernadette Boudens of Lily. “I love coming here and playing with her and petting her.

“When I see the love that it can express – I get rid of my stress, I become relaxed, I become happy.”

Valleyview residents have wanted a cat for years, community manager Taylor Stewart said, and it seemed time to start the program after a year of limited social interaction and COVID-19 restrictions.

“Especially after isolation, it’s that camaraderie, that human-animal bond,” said Stewart.

“It’s therapeutic, it has immense mental health benefits, anxiety, it lowers blood pressure. It’s huge.”

In the partnership between Valleyview and the Calgary Humane Society, a foster cat is brought into the community for four weeks before the animal is returned for adoption and another cat takes its place in the cat room.

Some residents will watch Lily through the glass of their cat room, others come in daily to play, cuddle, and watch the cat bounce its ladder up the wall. It is Lily’s friendship that Boudens enjoys most.

“We give her companionship and we get companionship,” she said.