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Honey sweetens Richmond seniors home

Animal companions are shown to have positive health impacts on humans. For residents of Rosewood Manor, having a feline friend around brightens days and calms anxieties.

When she was growing up, Jean D.’s packed household always had room for a feline family member.

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Adele holds Honey, who plots his next move.

“When I was a girl — I was the second oldest of 10 children that my mom and dad had in Regina — we always had a cat,” Jean recalled recently. “Always.”

Now that she lives at Rosewood Manor, a non-profit residential care home for seniors located on Blundell Road in Richmond, she once again enjoys the company of a cat.

Honey, a plucky male tabby who is about two years old, moved into Rosewood Manor in May, to the delight of staff and residents.

“We enjoy having him here,” said Jean.

For Honey’s part, the feeling appears mutual. He wanders the halls of the home, meandering into rooms and visiting people, sometimes curling up on laps or spreading out on beds.

Staff asked around to see if people had allergies and if they would like a feline around the building. Other wings of the facility already had two cats who bring some frisky friendship to residents. The team came to the RAPS-run City of Richmond Animal Shelter and found Honey, who was looking for a place where he would get plenty of affection. He found it.

He settled in right away and prowls the place like he’s the master of the manor.

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Jean (left) and Adele get Honey’s purr machine going.

Lots of people enjoy having a cat around, but for some residents of care homes like Rosewood, a cat can serve some very specific therapeutic roles.

“We thought he would be good for de-escalating residents who are getting agitated,” said Kayla Plett, care coordinator at Rosewood Manor. Residents with dementia, for example, can experience “sundowning,” where anxieties and confusion can increase at the end of the day.

“We’ve used Honey to redirect them and it’s been working,” said Kayla. “We say, ‘Let’s go see Honey,’ and it brightens their day when they see him. Some residents don’t speak and we can bring him and put a smile on their face.”

Adele T., who also lives at Rosewood, grew up in New Westminster.

“We always had cats,” she said, adding that having Honey around brings a degree of peace and quiet.

Studies indicate that animal companionship can have an enormous impact on human health, reducing hospital visits and major health events, as well as speeding recovery after such things as surgery, heart attack and stroke.

For Honey, spending time around seniors and their carers is just a spectacular way to soak up the love and rubs he craves.