Why A Lifetime Care Program 051316
Why a lifetime care program for senior cats? Because there’s often plenty left in the kitty
By LYNETTE BRASFIELD
What do senior cats wish for in their retirement? It’s hard to know. Do they dream of being able to sleep in, getting 23 hours of shut-eye instead of 22? Do they long to lie supine on a warm windowsill, watching the birds and the bees without the unsettling youthful urges that have sometimes led to frustration and other times to great fun? Do they long to be with that one partner who will comfort them until the end?
According to Pamela Knudsen, the PR volunteer coordinator for the nonprofit Blue Bell Foundation for Cats in Laguna Canyon, senior cats really aren’t that different from their human counterparts.
“Here, with Blue Bell’s Lifetime Care program, we make sure that our cats have all the comforts of home and are very well taken care of, ensuring that their golden years are filled with contentment, just as anyone would want for their aging loved ones, human or otherwise,” says Knudsen.
Blue Bell’s Cat Retirement Sanctuary, which was founded in 1989, is not a shelter or an adoption service.
Instead, Blue Bell offers loving and compassionate care for senior cats whose owners can no longer care for them, because of relocation, illness, or death. Resident cats live in the spacious cottage with its sunny patios, warm beds and garden setting until their final days. This was the vision of Bertha Gray Yergat, who bequeathed her home in the canyon as a permanent retirement home for cats.
Click on photo for a larger image
Mittens and Sweet Pea have formed a close friendship at Blue Bell
“Most cat owners take loving care of their pets, and yet don’t think ahead to the time when they might not be able to provide for them. Sometimes they assume that a friend or relative will adopt their cats, but even when this does happen, even the most well-meaning of people may ultimately find this a burden and end up taking the cat to a shelter,” Knudsen says.
“This is particularly the case with senior cats, who, like humans, often require expensive medical procedures to deal with age-related disease and illness such as diabetes. Senior cats in shelters typically don’t get adopted, which is just sad for the older cat who is already dealing with the stress of losing its owner. And if the shelter isn’t a no-kill, the cat won’t be kept for long, and we know what that means.”
Enter the concept of estate planning that includes lifetime provisions for pet care, an idea that is increasing in popularity as a way to bring peace of mind to pet owners.
“Blue Bell was one of the first to see the need for what we call our Lifelong Care Program, which provides a home environment similar to the ones that the cats have experienced with their owners,” Knudsen says. “Right now we have 50 cats, though you wouldn’t guess it when you visit because of the spaciousness of the premises. Volunteers come in on a daily basis, giving the cats lots of attention, snuggling and playing with them. Staff provide the basics: food, fresh water, medication, and trips to the vet as needed.”
Knudsen notes that senior cats tend to be mellow—perhaps in this regard not so similar to aging humans?—and live together quite happily as long as they have a space to call their own. Some remain loners, but occasionally close relationships form as the same groups of cats hang out together in the same spots. Knudsen is especially fond of the bunk-bed cat cabal consisting of Sweet Pea, Harry, Mittens, Tiger, Squirt, Buttercup, Angelo and Bubbe.
Apparently most in this group are pretty easy-going, though some, like Squirt, can be quite demanding, and some are more talkative than others. It is particularly heart-warming, Knudsen notes, to see the feral pair of tabbies, Mittens and Tiger, find solace in their friendship. Mittens and Sweet Pea are the “anchors” of the group, seldom stirring unless to greet Knudsen upon her arrival at the sanctuary.
Click on photo for a larger image
Laguna Woods Cat Club members and volunteer/tour guide Pamela Knudsen watch Sammy, Angelo and Ruckus enjoying a catnip blanket donated by Suzanne Stowe of LWCC
The Blue Bell Foundation, in partnership with the Laguna Beach Garden Club and Laguna Beach Beautification Council and with sponsorship from local businesses including Laguna Nursery, Native West Landscapes, Madison Square Garden and Café, and Visionscape, also has plans to beautify the Sanctuary’s setting, showcasing local flora and fauna and providing enhanced visual entertainment for the cats. Ten planned gardens will include predominantly blue and white plants, and will feature succulents, ferns, an aviary, butterfly gardens, and a meadow.
“We want Blue Bell Gardens to become a stunningly beautiful horticultural and educational destination point for Laguna Beach residents and schoolchildren,” says volunteer project manager and Chairman of the Advisory Board, Jeff Zakaryan. “Of course, we will need to manage the number of visitors at any given time, because it is important to maintain serene surroundings for the cats. They are our first priority.”
Oh, to be a cat destined for the Blue Bell Retirement Sanctuary!