Dog vaccine

For residents of New Milford’s Village Crest, ‘fluffy, purring’ kittens offer comfort, respite

NEW MILFORD – About 35 residents of Village Crest Health and Rehabilitation Center in New Milford have learned firsthand the therapeutic value that visiting cats and dogs can provide in settings such as rehabilitation and long-term care facilities. duration.

There, eight kittens rescued from Westchester-based Rock ‘n Rescue visited them last month for cuddles and playtime.

These visits serve a dual purpose, said Dana Christos, regional director of business development and marketing at National Health Care Associates, which operates Village Crest. They acclimate rescued kittens to human contact, giving them a head start on the adoption process. The time spent petting and playing with the kittens is also a form of occupational and recreational therapy for the residents.

The kittens arrived in Village Crest with the Rock ‘n Rescue crew, who introduced them to residents in “burrito blankets.” As the name suggests, the blankets are burrito-shaped and swaddle the kittens. After the group visits, the rescue volunteers then wheeled the kittens in strollers to the rooms of the bedridden patients.

“The program has been very well received,” noted Theresa D’Ambrosio, Director of Recreation at Village Crest. “All of the residents who participated were thrilled, and even one of our non-verbal residents was engaged.”

Christos described it as “very heartwarming to see”.

“Someone may have once had a pet they miss a lot,” Christos added. “Or they might have fond memories of having a kitten when they were little.”

D’Ambrosio pointed out that the staff at the center also appreciated the program. “For our nurses and orderlies, it’s a break from the norm,” she said. “It put a smile on their faces just as much as it did our residents.”

Academic studies have demonstrated the positive impact of these types of pet visits. Research from both the University of Minnesota and the State University of New York found that interacting with animals can lower both blood pressure and cholesterol levels. These sessions also contribute to improving the psychological health and the general feeling of well-being of the patients.

Kittens are beneficial for therapy, to begin with, as their soft fur positively stimulates the sense of touch. Bethel Healthcare – a facility that National Health Care Associates also owns – is piloting a similar program. For residents, the only requirement to participate in this activity might be the love and appreciation of cats.

Kittens and cats must, to begin with, have all their vaccinations up to date. They can be playful in personality, but not aggressive. Rock ‘n Rescue volunteers come with food and water, and the kittens get plenty of bathroom breaks and rest time between play sessions.

For kittens, the program even offers a feline form of networking.

“Rock ‘n Rescue and other rescue organizations are able to identify people to provide foster care for pets through programs such as these,” Christos said.

Rock ‘n Rescue is based in South Salem, NY Over the past two years, the organization has made 1,593 adoptions for Connecticut residents, of which approximately 200 are from Litchfield County residents.

Marla Valentine, Co-Executive Director of Rock ‘n Rescue, is a social worker who has worked in skilled nursing facilities for over 25 years. There, she witnessed the positive impact pet therapy can have in such settings. Valentine also led the Rock ‘n Rescue team that visited Village Crest.

“We started this program in 2018 because we knew the incredible healing and wellness benefits of animal interaction with the elderly,” she said. “If you’re in a nursing home, when you stroke a kitten’s belly or watch it fall asleep on your lap, you don’t think about your hand or leg hurting…you look at the miracle of life that is with you, fluffy and purring.

Valentine pointed out that kittens have an innate sense of who needs their attention the most: during a visit, many typically walk up to a patient in a wheelchair and climb into that person’s lap.

Most Rock ‘n Rescue kittens and cats come from southern areas where spaying and spaying of pets is not common. In particular, the organization works with a large animal shelter in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Every two to three weeks, a driver from this shelter brings a truckload of cats and kittens to eastern Pennsylvania, transferring them to a Rock ‘n Rescue driver for the return trip to the group’s Westchester facility. .

Most kitten adoptions happen by word of mouth and not through community events. “Yet, nursing home visits put them in multiple social contexts prior to their adoption,” “helping to better socialize them,” Valentine said.

To volunteer or adopt a pet from Rock ‘n Rescue, call 914-533-1880.