Jeanne Boyer smiles as she starts talking about her cat Lola, whom she permanently fostered two years ago.
Boyer, a senior citizen, used to live alone in her small apartment complex before she met Lola. She did not receive many visitors and had a hard time getting around. She craved company.
When Lola entered her world, her life changed. Lola, a senior cat, had been returned to Heaven Can Wait Animal Society when her family had to move away. The two lonely souls became inseparable.
“Lola has changed my life and brought me a lot of joy,” Boyer said. “She is so lovable and she guards me. We really have a one-and-one connection.”
Boyer claims that she would not have been able to have Lola without the help of Heaven Can Wait’s Pawsitively Seniors program, which provides all of the financial support for the cats.
Boyer became involved with the program in June 2011. She heard about it through her apartment coordinator, who introduced her to Elaine Takaki, adoption and foster coordinator of the program.
After meeting with Takaki and filling out an application, Boyer was matched up as a permanent foster for an 8-year-old black Bombay cat named Lola.
The program was born in June 2010 when Heaven Can Wait Animal Society partnered with Nevada Housing and Neighborhood Development to improve the lives of senior citizens living on fixed budgets.
Nevada HAND is a nonprofit organization that provides affordable housing to low-income seniors. It operates seven independent living units in Las Vegas and Henderson.
The organization focuses on combating isolation for its residents through the encouragement of pet ownership, according to Takaki.
There are 15 senior citizens involved, and 18 cats have been adopted as a result of the program.
Takaki said Heaven Can Wait has several senior cats because of its open return policy. She added that most cats are adopted as kittens and returned when they are between ages 6 and 7.
Typically, families return their pets because they are moving, have a newborn baby or someone moved in who is allergic to cats.
There are at least 75 senior cats that need homes, according to Takaki, so Heaven Can Wait is always looking for responsible senior citizens who want to share their love with a feline companion.
“When they are put in an adoption environment where there are other cats, they may become feisty and aggressive,” Takaki said. “It becomes tough to adopt them out. That’s why we started this program.”
She added that black cats are the hardest to adopt because many people want cats of other colors, and black cats are also tied to superstition.
Takaki said that a lot of senior citizens benefit from the program because it gives them a reason to get up in the morning.
Takaki makes monthly visits to cat owners’ homes, and if she feels that the cats are not being properly taken care of, she takes them back to Heaven Can Wait.
“They’re still our cats,” Takaki said. “We look for senior citizens to become permanent foster parents, but we still continue to provide all of the financial needs for the cats. It’s not really an adoption, but it is permanent.”
Along with the program, Heaven Can Wait provides food, kitty litter, veterinary care and covers pet fees.
Once in a foster home, senior cats take time to warm up to their new environment, but as Boyer said, “All you really have to do is supply them with a lot of love.”
The program has been publicized through word-of-mouth, but Takaki claims it has been difficult for some senior citizens to understand.
“Some people think that there’s a catch, but there’s no catch.” Takaki said. “Heaven Can Wait is already taking care of these cats. So we might as well help seniors who can’t afford to maintain and take care of a cat. We do it all for free.”
If a senior becomes ill or can no longer take care of a cat, the animal will be returned to the organization for continued care.
Takaki added that it is a great program for seniors because older cats are calmer, behave better and provide great company.
Harold Vosko, president of Heaven Can Wait, said that one in eight cats has a chance of getting out of the shelter. He added that cats are easier to take care of for seniors since they do not require walks outside.
“It’s a great program,” Boyer said. “It lifts your spirits and keeps your healthy. My blood pressure is now normal. It’s all thanks to my happy little cat. She keeps me laughing.”
Seniors at Nevada HAND properties who are interested in participating in Pawsitively Seniors can visit hcws.org or ask a manager of the property for more information.
Contact Sunrise/Whitney View reporter Sandy Lopez at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-4686.