Daily Smile

Happiness is a cat: Partnering Seniors and Cats

Seniors and cats make a perfect pairing

Sherbet, a female orange tabby cat, stretches out on Martha’s sofa.

“She’s truly a miniature lion,” says Martha. “When she lounges on my furniture, I recall the lions I saw when my husband and I visited Kenya years ago. We made a day-trip to a game preserve, and saw a pride of lions resting in the shade. When Sherbet gets comfortable, she looks just like those lions. You needn’t look too hard to see the resemblance—the feline attitude and strength in repose.”

Martha’s husband died several years ago. She acquired Sherbet from an acquaintance at a Vancouver, BC seniors’ centre. The acquaintance already had several cats, and decided to give Sherbet to somebody reliable, such as Martha. Sherbet settled into Martha’s apartment with no difficulty.
“She marched into my front room and jumped up on the sofa,” says Martha. “She gave me a look that told me that she accepted her new home, and then she stretched out and fell asleep.”

She was a lonely widow, and when Sherbet arrived in her life Martha wanted to shower her with affection.


Martha had never owned a cat, and realized that she needed to learn how to care for Sherbet. Martha took her to a local vet for a checkup, and asked for advice regarding feline nutrition and a proper feeding routine. Fortunately Sherbet was up-to-date with her vaccinations and, aside from a few fleas, she was problem-free.

The vet advised Martha not to over-feed Sherbet.

“He told me that new cat owners can love their animals too much, and stuff them with goodies. I promised that I’d do no such thing, but in the beginning I did. I loved Sherbet from the first moment I saw her. It was so tempting to give her treats.”

But when Sherbet put on weight, Martha disciplined herself and followed the prescribed feeding routine. It was hard at first. She was a lonely widow, and when Sherbet arrived in her life Martha wanted to shower her with affection. Luckily Martha realized that the best way to keep Sherbet from becoming obese was to feed her properly.


Another good source of information was the local library. Martha had been a regular patron for decades, but she had never investigated the library’s collection of cat care materials. The reference librarian directed her to shelves containing books on cat psychology, behaviour, and health. Martha also learned how to access a plethora of websites concerning cats.

“I relied on the library for an education on cat ownership,” says Martha. “For a senior like me on a limited budget, the library is a godsend. I learned how to recognize when Sherbet needed the vet’s care, and when she could get by without it. I confess that one time I saw Sherbet sneeze, and took her to the vet later that day. He was very diplomatic, and assured me that Sherbet was as healthy as ever. One sneeze was no indication of a fatal disease.”


Seniors such as Martha report a number of advantages of owning cats. First, the presence of a cat can reduce loneliness and isolation—serious threats to a senior’s happiness. When one’s spouse and many friends have moved on or died, a cat can provide welcome company.

“I talk to Sherbet a lot,” says Martha. “Everybody needs human contact, but I get enough at the seniors’ centre, and it’s nice to come home to Sherbet and tell her what I’ve been up to. And I can gossip with her all I want, and not cause my human friends any grief. Sherbet knows how to keep a secret.”

Second, for seniors with physical limitations, a cat can be easier to care for than other animals. Martha does not need to take Sherbet for a walk, or store heavy bags of food for her. It’s not difficult to groom Sherbet and clean her litter box.

“She doesn’t get in the way or under my feet,” says Martha. “She seems to know how to share our space. We both know where we stand with each other, literally and figuratively. Sherbet has enriched my life in so many ways, and I recommend cat ownership to many of my old and older friends. Remember that ad about putting a tiger in your tank? Well, consider putting a little lion in your life.”

Guy Robertson is an Instructor in the Library and Information Technology Program at Langara College in Vancouver, BC.

Add A Comment


  • Audrey

    My Meeko is my best friend. Now that I am alone since my beloved hubby passed away, she senses when I need a friend and she is always there. She sleeps with me so the big bed doesn’t seem so empty. She is a real presence and comfort for me. I recommend a cat for company if you are alone. They are a true friend and know when you need them. You will never feel lonely with a cat around.

  • jean

    God Bless you both. Have a long and enjoyable life together. Jean a fellow Cat Purrson

  • Suzanne

    What a blessing our cats are! For anyone comtemplating getting a cat for the first time, I would recomnend a bit of educating yourself on them, via reading and talking with cat people. Cats are not the aloof, disinterested in people animals that they have the reputation of being. My cats have enriched my life immensely and bring me happiness every day.
    God bless Martha and Sherbet!

  • maxine fultz

    I love my 17 year old tabby Abigail, I’ve had her since she was a kitten. I truly do not know what I would do if I didn’t have a cat in my life to love!!

  • Sandra Lawrence

    I am recovering from surgery and my cat Tai makes it a bit easier. He’s a very good care giver and even likes the visiting nurse. And, of course, he love the naps I take.


    Hooray for you. I too am older, 75, and believe my two beautiful cats keep me young. They make me smile, many times during the day and the love they give is immeasurable. Enjoy your furry love.

  • Jennifer Thurston

    I Praise God Everyday for Allowing me to have Kitties! And a Doggie! Not everyone can have these Pets!
    I do often ask Which Came First? The Lion or The Short haired domestics Beasty we get to snuggle? I think God made the Big Cats first & saw how Awesome they were! So he created Miniature Lions Tigers & Panthers for us to SNUGGLE!😇😸

  • Penelope Allingham

    I am 71 and have three cats. I can’t imagine life without them but worry what will happen if any of them outlive me. This is a real concern.

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