Love your pet day 2022 - Meet the cat at the heart of Edmund House care home

28 February 2022

When Ed the Red British Shorthair cat arrived at Bupa’s Edmund House Care Home last year, nobody could anticipate quite how much of a difference his playful antics would benefit daily life.

Recently celebrating his first birthday with his fellow residents – complete with party masks and cupcakes, of course – Ed has certainly established himself as both a treasured pet and housemate amongst residents and staff, alike.

Ahead of this year’s Love Your Pet Day, the home’s elderly care home residents share what it means to have a furry friend.

Edmund House welcomed Ed in 2021, joining the 27% of UK adults who own cats. Along with bringing the residents excitement and the chance to make a new companion, they’ve enjoyed the many health and wellbeing benefits that having a pet can bring.

Studies show that stroking an animal can help to bring down your blood pressure, and just being near one can be enough to help to combat anxiety and stress levels. Known as animal-assisted therapy, early research shows that animals can be of huge benefit to everyone – and they can be especially helpful for older people. Research indicates that pet therapy can provide a boost to those who have dementia, depression, or have had a stroke.

Animal therapy can also involve brushing and caring for an animal, bringing stimulation to care home residents and the opportunity to make new goals, either individually or together as a group. Playing with a pet can give people an outlet to express themselves, as well as strengthening social and problem-solving skills.

The simple pleasure of having a cat companion around the home has certainly made an impact on the residents. Lucy Coggan, 95, has enjoyed building a close relationship with Ed: “He’s such a charming little cat. He used to come up on my bed, and then when I put my legs down, he’d sit at my side.”

Lucy also loves his curious nature: “He liked going under my bed. Now, I don’t know what the found, but he did spend quite a bit of time under there!”

Lucy isn’t the only resident Ed has bonded with – the full-of-fun cat has also charmed 99-year-old Bill Greaves: ‘I’ve played with him in the lounge. He used to hide under my wheelchair!” and Jean Irons, 90: “He’s a dear little fellow. He’s always scooting about.”

For life-long cat lovers, like resident Gloria Sikora, 96, having a cat around brings quirky comfort to each day: “When I was a child, I had a cat that used to wait for me and walk beside me all the way home from school. I’ve had cats all my life. One was a cream Persian called Desmond Courtney and another was called Tudor Morgan. I enjoy having Ed in the home. One hot day, he laid down on my bathroom floor and wouldn’t move.”

For Edmund House’s Activities Coordinators, Kathryn Lazenby and Michelle Evison, Ed’s presence has brought some much-needed joy to everyone at the home during difficult times. “Ed is the perfect Pets-As-Therapy cat.” Says Kathryn.

“He’s formed so many special bonds with our residents and watching how he can improve their moods, by just being around, is truly lovely to see. Ed gives everyone something to chat about – even for residents who don’t always find it easy to socialise. The playful nature of a cat reminds us all to live in the present moment.

Michelle added: “Ed’s first birthday gave us the opportunity to get the whole home together and truly celebrate him and the happiness that he brings. It may come as no surprise that we hosted a completely cat-themed party - we enjoyed tucking into cat themed chocolate cupcakes, donning cat face masks and headbands and we even joined in with a recital of Edward Lear’s poem, The Owl and the Pussycat!

Ed certainly loved the extra attention on his big day and enjoyed his pet treats. We’re really looking forward to watching Ed grow and strengthen his bonds with Edmund House’s residents.”

Even if you don’t have your own pet, there are lots of ways to enjoy the health benefits of being around animals. You could go wildlife spotting in the park, take a trip to a wildlife reserve, go dog-walking with a friend or watch some funny animal videos online!

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