[Kate Stone Matheson/Unsplash]

Stray Thoughts, Compassionate Conclusion

00:00 February 26, 2013
By: Debbie Lindsey

Two cats and their offspring can create, in seven years, 420,000 homeless cats. There are 60 million feral cats in the United States.

She lives under a house that fl oods during a hard rain. And while this shelter of sorts is cool in the summer, it is painfully cold in the winter. But it does provide some measure of protection from large dogs and the cruel boy down the street who bullies small animals when there is no one else to pick on. Her food consists of mice, lizards and garbage. Fresh water does not exist unless she can get to a rain puddle before it is contaminated by a car’s oil leak or pesticides in the grass. And forget about a treat or a belly rub, because she is so scared of people that she can’t allow herself to be loved—and even if she found the courage, she fears she is too old to be wanted.

The 2000 U.S. Census cites a population of 35 million over the age of 65—of which large numbers live alone. In new Orleans, 34.2 percent of our aging population live alone.

He lives alone, maybe not an unpleasant situation for a young man with a job, friends and mobility. However, he is no longer young. His wife and many of his friends have passed. His children are scattered across the country. He could go to live with one of them, but New Orleans is his home. Little by little, he has started to feel less of a need to get out of bed; when he does, it seems silly to bother with getting dressed—besides, what’s it matter if he’s wearing his pajamas—it’s not like he’s got a hot date or anything. But it would be nice to have someone or something that cared if he got out of bed.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the Journal of American Geriatrics both report that seniors with pets enjoy better physical health and mental well-being than those without an animal companion.

It has long been understood that a dog or cat companion can bring great comfort and camaraderie to people, especially those living alone. Many studies have shown that autistic children benefi t greatly from interaction with animals. And all children can learn responsibility and empathy by caring for a pet. As children, we rely on adults to care for us: we are at their mercy. Perhaps this is why we, as children, benefi t from a friendship with a dog or cat—for the fi rst time we are looked up to as the provider of food, instruction and love.

Throughout our lives family, friends, coworkers, and community rely upon us. But as we grow older, retirement and health issues, family loss and separations can shrink our responsibilities (and abilities) and sense of pride. And pride suffers even more, as aging often makes us dependent upon the very folks we once took care of. No shame in needing others but not to be needed is an insult.

SpayMart needs seniors (62-plus years of age) to provide loving homes to senior cats (6-plus years of age).

Perhaps you have met her in your veterinarian’s waiting room. She’s the one with a rescued cat that will soon join the ranks of over 2,500 felines spayed or neutered to prevent a host of health problems and thousands of unwanted offspring. Her name is Lynn Chiche, and she is the founder of SpayMart, which has partnered with Petco and Petsmart stores, volunteers and local veterinarians for feline medical care, home placement, and public awareness. And she needs you.

SpayMart began about 15 years ago with plans to create Louisiana’s fi rst high-volume spay/ neuter clinic in New Orleans. The project was 85% completed with 7 years already invested when it was taken out by Katrina. Attention then turned to the immediate challenge of water rescues and transport of over 300 felines to SpayMart’s indoor 17,000-square-foot sanctuary in Mississippi.

Since then, the rescue of felines from cruelty situations and abandonment issues, an ongoing labor, has brought this sanctuary, an interim safe haven (currently steady at over 300 cats), to full capacity and unable to accept more. Want to help? Go to SpayMart’s website, meet these many cats, and consider adoption.

Of the many varied programs and opportunities offered by SpayMart, the Seniors for Seniors adoption and placement program is perhaps the one that touches the life of a person as profoundly as it does that of the rescued companion cat.

Adult cats, especially older cats, are less likely to be adopted than kittens. And yet a senior cat presents the advantage of knowing just what their habits, traits and idiosyncrasies are. Does their personality mesh with yours? Not to discourage the adoption of kittens or young adult cats (all need homes), but consider the compatible match-up between two seniors. Companionship can enrich both lives.

SpayMart’s Seniors for Seniors program starts with an application, then a supervised fostering of the senior cat of your choice for 30 days. If the foster arrangement is successful, a permanent adoption is made at no charge. SpayMart remains connected throughout the relationship for any questions or information, and will provide a voucher for one annual wellness veterinarian appointment. If a time comes when you cannot care for the cat, SpayMart will take the cat back—no questions asked. No shame, no blame.

Regardless of age, you certainly know someone (if not yourself) whose life could be enhanced, made more meaningful, by saving a small life. SpayMart has many programs for the welfare of cats, explained in detail at its website (spaymart. org). Also visit and support its fundraising SpayMart Thrift Store at 6601 Veterans Blvd (in the same shopping center as TJ Maxx). Or just call 504-454- 8200.

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