Bethanie Illawong Aged Care Home cares for 39 residents and one adorable cat. Cherry the cat has been a permanent resident at the Hamilton Hill facility for 13 months, joining them as a rescue cat from the Cat Haven.
The Cat Haven screens their cats and applicants for companion cats to ensure that the right cat is placed in the right home and following a successful initial 6-week trial period, the cats are permanently settled.
Bethanie Enrolled Nurse, Anne-Therese Pratt, is the primary carer (read servant!) for Cherry and says, “They couldn't have picked a better cat for Illawong. Cherry not only resides permanently at Illawong, she thinks she's in charge and she runs the place like it's her own!”
There are many studies which highlight the benefits of animal companionship for both physical and mental health and Bethanie is a firm believer that pet therapy amongst the elderly has its benefits.
Some residents have formed a very special bond with Cherry, who isn’t an overly affectionate cat but is very happy to be among residents. She also has several beds and chairs that she regularly sneaks off to and has been known to snuggle down on a nice warm bed at nighttime for a little while.
Anne-Therese adds, “Whenever we have visiting animals to Illawong (horses, dogs, chickens and even Cherry), our residents are thrilled to be able to interact with them. Over the last 12 months, we have had some really memorable visits that have highlighted how much animals are an amazing asset. To see faces light up and pain forgotten momentarily is a gift in itself.”
Cherry has enabled some residents to engage freely when previously they have kept to themselves in their rooms, providing these residents with boasting rights during mealtimes because they received a visit.
Cherry provides a great source of entertainment for residents too, usually in the form of her trying to catch her tail and unsurprisingly she has also managed to convince several residents to provide the occasional snack, with these same residents purchasing wet food or biscuits for her.
Cherry even has her own column in Bethanie’s internal newsletter – giving her a platform beyond her Illawong home. Anne-Therese says, “We had toyed with the idea of creating a Facebook or Instagram account for Cherry, so our residents' families could follow her exploits but to be brutally honest, she doesn't really get up to much except sleeping, eating, chasing her tail and bossing me around, so the column is much more up to our speed.”
Find out more about Bethanie.