Kitten Therapy

MAN 1: The Pima Animal Care Center is the
only open admission shelter in Tucson. Every year, it takes in roughly
20,000 animals, mostly dogs and cats. The goal is to spay or neuter
and microchip and then adopt out as many of these animals as possible. SAMANTHA: It’s referred to
as a live-release rate. The last fiscal year we made it to ninety. Um, when I first started here a few years
ago, it was in like the low seventies. MAN 1: Ten years ago, the
live-release was around forty percent. Getting it to ninety was hard work. It means a lot more of these animals are
finding homes and leaving the shelter alive. Innovations and new ideas help,
including expanding the foster program. SAMANTHA: Foster programs are amazing. Especially for little guys like him and younger. Um, the shelters really not a place to grow up. REBECCA: I’ve been a foster for Pima
Animal Care Center for many, many years. I know that there’s such a desperate need and on social media I often
see desperate pleas going out. Seven bottle fed babies or eyes not
opening up yet must leave the shelter. MAN 1: Rebecca Hamilton is a registered
nurse at Catalina Springs Memory Care. Here, they provide round the clock
care for residents with Alzheimer’s, dementia and other forms of memory loss REBECCA:
We are always looking for new activities for them that can meaning and
depth and joy into their lives. MAN 1: Hamilton had an idea that
the residents and caregivers at the center could act as
a collective foster family. REBECCA: They said fine when we find the
next perfect litter, you’ll get a call. SAMANTHA; Of course, I was like “Yeah!,
we’ll do it right now if you wanna do it ” REBECCA: That was on a Tuesday Afternoon. Wednesday afternoon, I got the call. We have the perfect two kittens for you. MAN 1: And so it began, two
tiny kittens that needed to be bottle fed every few hours
joined residents at the center. REBECCA; One is Turtle, that’s the official
name and the other one’s named Peaches. Peaches was a little, tiny
baby wrapped up in a towel. Do you remember that? THELMA; Oh, you little baby. That was you, baby. REBECCA: But do you remember holding
her and giving her the bottle? And I would always come? THELMA: Yeah,yeah. REBECCA: And I’d say who wants to feed kittens? PATRICIA: I did! REBECCA: Yes, you did, and
you were very good at it. REBECCA: As that muscle memory is reengaged,
holding a baby, giving a baby a bottle, memory channels are completed and
reawakened again and that’s what’s so lovely about the story of Thelma suddenly recalling,
you know, all the cats that she had raised in – on the farm where she grew up . THELMA: We had nineteen. REBECCA: Nineteen? THELMA: Well, it feels just like a baby. I used to put mine in a baby carriage
– take it around and put a dress on it. REBECCA: Those memories are very precious
to us because those memories are some of the first things that our residents lose. This is Jean Claude Coline. JEAN: Oui. REBECCA: Oui, and he is from France. And this is Greg Moore and Greg,
I think, actually is more bonded with these cats than almost anyone here. GREG: I had a cat when I was a kid and
uh and then we had dogs after that. But, there’s always been an animal
around someplace around the house. JEAN: Your cat is not as good as mine. REBECCA: I know. There’s so much to say about
these kittens that I find, with some of our residents,
words come more easily. GREG: They can let them out of their cage and
they’re usually pretty lazy- pretty lazy but, uh, it’ll brighten up and could go on real fast. REBECCA: Yes, this is a dear gentleman, but
he really does significant cognitive deficits. This whole experience and
subject is important to him and he has really done his
absolute best to express that. GREG: My guess is that there is
about two and a half pounds or two. MAN 1: Now that Turtle and Peaches are
over two pounds they will soon be spayed and adopted out to their forever homes. Residents here will have to say goodbye. REBECCA: This was always a nice happy place
but it is very joyful with their presence. [elderly people laughing] MAN 2: She loves you! REBECCA: Sometimes we give comfort and
we receive comfort at the same time and that’s certainly been the case here. MAN 1: It may be difficult to say goodbye
to these two – how could it not be? But the program will continue. SAMANTHA: This was the first like, little
pilot litter so after these guys come back, they actually want to try with
two different litters next times because they have two separate wings. So, each wing of the memory care facility
can have their own litter to take care of. GREG: I think that I won’t be surprising to
find that getting a replacement for SAMANTHA: This program has actually
got a ton of attention. Not only just here in Southern
Arizona but like Phoenix, in Canada. As far away as like the UK. REBECCA: My ulterior motive in all of
this is that this serve as an example. It is an ideal combination, a perfect use of
resources for the good of both and um I hope that other assisted living homes
use our example and take it further. So should we get some more ? JEAN: Twenty more REBECCA: Twenty more? JEAN: Oh, yeah. REBECCA: Okay [Jean laughs] REBECCA: We’ll
have you bottle feeding all day JEAN: Oh, yeah. REBECCA: Okay.

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