Far North animal rescue charity launches new cat companion programme pairing adult cats with elderly

Publish Date
Monday, 25 September 2023, 3:41PM
Barbara Nicholas, pictured with Murphy, is helping with the new Companion Cats programme in the Far North. Photo / Jenny Ling

Barbara Nicholas, pictured with Murphy, is helping with the new Companion Cats programme in the Far North. Photo / Jenny Ling

A new ‘Companion Cats’ programme in the Far North is teaming up older unwanted cats with elderly residents who can’t afford them.

Coast to Coast Cat Rescue, a charity dedicated to rescuing and rehoming felines, is about to launch the programme, offering cats on a long-term foster basis to senior residents in the wider Bay of Islands area.

Volunteer Barbara Nicholas, who has been fostering cats for seven years, said having an animal around “gives you something to look after and love”.

“Everyone wants kittens, so there’s a lot of adult cats in the rescue.

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“There are older people out there who would love a pet, but they can’t afford to feed it or pay the vet bills, or even [buy] kitty litter.

“The rescue is trying to get the adult cats and people together. It’s a win-win situation for people and the cats. The cats get a home for a while, and the people get companionship for as long as they need it.”

Through local business sponsorship, the charity covers all costs associated with the companion cat so seniors don’t have any financial worries.

Food, kitty litter, flea and worm treatments and medical care are provided, and the cat can be returned at any time.


Nicholas currently has seven cats at her home in Kerikeri, including four that she’s fostering.

She’s now helping out with the programme and is a volunteer liaison between the elderly and the charity helping to get food, kitty litter and whatever else they need.

Coast to Coast Cat Rescue trust chairwoman Sam Stewart said adult cats were usually slower to be adopted than kittens and the charity had about 60 in its care at any one time.

“We talk to many seniors while carrying out our work, and a common theme we’ve heard is that they would love a cat as a companion, but are on a limited income or they are worried about what would happen to their cat when they pass away.

“Many adult cats are ideally suited as companions for senior adults, as they often just want a lap to sit on and affection.”

Stewart said animals positively contribute to the mental and physical health of older adults.

Owning a cat gives people a sense of purpose, helps them socialise and is a source of unconditional love.

Looking after a cat can also reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, Stewart said.

“Scientific evidence has shown that a cat’s purr can calm your nervous system and lower your blood pressure.

“Physically, there have been improvements in blood pressure and heart rate from having a companion animal.”

For Nicholas, they are also great to talk to.

“They’re non-judgemental; you can be as silly as you like and they don’t judge you for it.

“I’m 76 and I’m still buzzing around and doing lots, so there must be something in it.”

Contact 022 613 2317 or [email protected] if you’d like an adult cat to care for, or if you’re a local business or individual who can help with sponsorship.

What a great initiative!!

This article was first published in the NZ Herald by Jenny Ling and is republished here with permission.

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