SINGAPORE: When one thinks of animals as companions, most often dogs come to mind. However, as more organisations in Singapore begin offering animal-assisted activities, the different types of animals providing care has grown.
Love Kuching Project, a community-based cat rescue group, brings furry felines to Ren Ci Nursing Home for up to two hours each month, so that residents can pet and cuddle them. The visits are kept short so the cats do not get too tired.
Love Kuching visits at least three Voluntary Welfare Organisations on a regular basis.
"When the cats are here, I'm a lot happier. If there are no cats or dogs which come here, it'll be very lonely,” said 68-year-old resident Teo Leng Siang.
The nursing home started the sessions a year ago because many of the residents said they liked cats. It added that the visits have had a positive effect on the residents.
“There was this one resident who is always very quiet,” said Ren Ci Hospital Assistant Director of Nursing, June Tan. "When the cats started to come, he started to interact with the volunteers. The softer part of him started to show up."
She added that he began to be more vocal and opened up to others. “So over time, we found that there is an improvement in him,” she said.
Cats who join Love Kuching Project have to be screened. Their owners fill up a form on their cat's personality and being tame is a must. Documents to prove their cat has been to the vet regularly are also submitted.
A veterinarian said there is a possibility of getting a “cat scratch”. Like its name suggests, bacteria from cats could cause an infection if it gets under human skin.
Professor of Veterinary Clinical Science at Murdoch University, Peter Irwin, said: "The vector-borne disease is caused by a bacterium that is in the cat's blood, and in fleas that transmit this infection to cats.
“Sometimes, people can get scratched by cats and the bacteria gets into the skin and that can cause an infection in the person, especially the elderly and the compromised, but generally the risks are so low."
The careful screening of animals has ensured that no resident here has been scratched or bitten during these sessions.