Alzheimer’s patients in Marlborough, New Zealand have a new visitor, and he has four paws and red fur. Oscar, a nine-year-old red burmese cat, enjoys visiting the Alzheimer’s Marlborough day program.
Beth Barnes, Oscar’s owner, says that every time she puts Oscar’s harness on, he starts to purr.
Barnes takes Oscar to visit Alzheimer’s patients as part of the Marlborough SPCA’s pet therapy program. A dog and rabbit are also part of the program, but Oscar is the first cat to visit the day program.
Leigh Rector, the SPCA Marlborough pet therapy coordinator, was a bit hesitant to have Oscar as a therapy pet, since cats are known to be skittish and nervous. However, when Rector met Oscar, she knew that he would be perfect for the job.
Explains Rector, “He’s just the king of the cats. He’s friendly and gentle. He allows you to hold him and doesn’t struggle to get away.”
Oscar has been visiting the Alzheimer’s Marlborough day program for the past six months. He rides in the passenger seat of Barnes’ VW Beetle, wearing his harness. Once he reaches the day program, Oscar is happy to visit with patients.
Explains Barnes, “He just loves people. The doorbell rings and he goes to see who’s come to visit him.”
Oscar is clearly a very special cat. His presence at the day program can help to bring back patients’ memories from their childhood, plus Oscar can be a calming and relaxing visitor. It’s no wonder that pet therapy continues to grow in popularity.