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Interview with the 'Cat Couple'

Created date

May 25th, 2010

Judy Baldwin and Walt Copper are well known around the Maris Grove campus. Baldwin is affectionately referred to as the cat lady, and when she and Copper aren t running the community s Cat Club , they re volunteering at Faithful Friends, a nonprofit no-kill shelter in Wilmington, Del. [caption id="attachment_12161" align="alignright" width="280" caption=" Cat couple Walt Copper and Judy Baldwin with Emme, the white Himalayan they adopted. (Photo by Heather Braver)"] Not only do they save strays in the greater community, they make love connections by uniting their neighbors with furry friends. Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down and speak with the cat couple and see the animals through their eyes.

Why do you do this sort of work?

Baldwin:We know the plight of stray dogs and cats, and they have no voice, so we are speaking for them. The overpopulation of these animals is overwhelming, and we re doing what we can to help them. I ve had pets my whole life, so it s a natural fit for me to work with animals.

Cats have garnered a less-than-ideal reputation for being snobbish and standoffish; why do you think dogs are more accessible than cats?

Baldwin: I m not sure why they have that reputation; everyone who has cats here just adores them. I do know that there s not as many stray dogs out there as cats. At any given time, Faithful Friends may have 40, sometimes 50, dogs; but for cats, we are well over the 400 mark. Not all of those cats are in one shelter; we have pet stores that we work with, adoption centers, a feral colony, and homes that foster the cats. Copper:Dogs are perceived as outgoing and loving, whereas cats are seen as more independent. An owner is staff for a cat, whereas a dog will do anything for its owner. In retirement communities, however, cats seem to be the pet of choice because they are so self-sufficient. All you need is a litter box, a plate of food, and a dish of water, and the animal will survive. [To thrive, you need lots of love, of course.] With cats, you don t have to go out in the cold or rain or snow just to walk them. That s why Judy and I are urging Faithful Friends to take a more proactive role in presenting cats to retirement communities.

What is your role with Faithful Friends?

Baldwin: I ve volunteered with them for over six years. We moved to Maris Grove about a year and a half ago, and I still go there every week. I visit with the cats and show them to people. Other times, I ll work on the computer. There s something called the Pet Helpline that I can do from home. It s a dedicated phone line where people can call in with issues, like if they ve found strays or can t afford to keep their pets anymore. I ve received as many as 127 calls in one week I take calls for one week each month so there s definitely a need. Walt and I also get expired food from pet stores, which is good for another year after expiration, and drop that off at the food bank. Copper:When we first moved to
Maris Grove, some residents reported cats roaming the campus. I went to Faithful Friends and got some Have a Heart [humane] traps and trapped them. After they got updated on shots and spayed or neutered, we put them up for adoption. Some of them went to the shelter, some went to barns for rodent control, some went to the feral colony. Recently, we had a report of two more strays roaming around, so I did the same with them. No one knows where they come from; they just show up on the property and residents report them to us. We do work with Maris Grove management to make sure none of the residents have reported lost cats before we trap them, and they ve been so helpful with all of this. WhenMaris Grovebuilt Renaissance Gardens [the extended-care neighborhood], Judy made sure that Faithful Friends got involved with them to develop a pet therapy program. Once a month, someone from the shelter will visit and audition pets that would make good therapy pets. So far, there are seven dogs and only one cat; it s hard to make a cat into a therapy cat.

How do you connect residents with Faithful Friends for pet adoptions?

Copper:We try to make it very easy for residents to adopt cats. Faithful Friends has a special program where residents 65 and over can adopt senior cats (over three years old) for free. The cats will be spayed/neutered, have their shots, [and] they even have a microchip. The residents don t have to do anything but take them in and care for them. Baldwin:Kittens are easy to adopt, so this is a way to move the older cats that are more difficult to adopt through the program. Older cats are much calmer than little kittens. So far, three Maris Grove staff members have adopted two dogs and one cat from Faithful Friends. Also, there have been at least tenMaris Groveresidents who have adopted cats! Walt and I have one from the shelter and two others that we rescued before I got involved with the organization. Her name is Emme. She s about 12 years old, and she only weighs four pounds. She is a white Himalayan with one brown eye and one blue, so she is completely deaf. She was running around one of the highways, and I don t know how she survived.

Why do you think cats make the perfect pets for retirement communities?

Copper:They meet you at the door, and they sleep at the foot of your bed. We have one cat who sleeps in Judy s arms at night. Here atMaris Grove, we have a neat thing: a vet that makes house calls. She gives them their shots, clips their nails whatever they need">and she keeps their records on computer. A lot of the mature people here, us included, have a hard time getting the cats into a carrier. As soon as they see that thing, they hide under the bed. So for her to come to us makes it easier and more cost effective too. Baldwin:Cats are the perfect pets because you don t have to walk them; they re quiet, docile, and calming. Cats are much easier than dogs, and there have been studies done that have proven cats help alleviate tension.There s just something about Emme that smoothes out all our stress. For more information about the organization where Baldwin and Copper volunteer,

Feline fact:

What the cat couple says is true having a cat is good for your health. According to a study done by the Berlin Longevity Institute, cats can add an average of 10.3 years to the lifespan of someone who has had a cat since childhood. Just holding a cat lowers blood pressure and slows the heart rate.
Maris Grove is an Erickson retirement community in Delaware County, Pennsylvania. Erickson manages a network of 19 communities nationwide that combine a maintenance-free, active lifestyle with social activities, amenities, and medical offerings proven to improve both physical and mental health.