November 28, 2016 10:44 AM

There’s nothing more magical than the power of kitten cuddles.

At Catalina Springs Memory Care in Tuscon, Arizona, seniors with dementia or Alzheimer’s help care for baby rescue kittens requiring round-the-clock care, while the kittens offer much-needed companionship to the home’s residents.

“To some it may seem peculiar at first: Residents who are in need of around-the-clock care themselves, given the task to care for these young kittens,” Catalina Springs Memory Care Executive Director Sharon Mercer, said in a release detailing the partnership between Catalina Springs Memory Care and the Pima Animal Care Center.

“But there are skills, emotions and needs that do not just leave a person with dementia or Alzheimer’s. The desire to give love and receive love remains. The kittens have given us the opportunity to nurture this human condition that lies in each and every one of our residents.”

Studies have shown repeatedly that interacting with animals can help boost seniors’ moods. Take Theodore, the red kangaroo who serves as an animal therapist at Salt Lake City’s Silverado Senior Living for people suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s. There, “his only job is to be loved,” said Noralyn Snow, the facility’s administrator, who also cares for the kangaroo in her suburban home when he’s not on the clock.

The residents at Catalina Springs bottle-feed the kittens as they transition to kibble and soft food. Once the kittens reach a healthy two pounds, they return to PACC for their spay surgeries, vaccinations and microchips, and then they are placed up for adoption.

One resident, Thelma Bradfield, was reminded of her childhood as she tenderly bottle-fed a kitten.

“We had 19 cats,” Bradfield said. “We fed them in the barn. This one’s a little baby and needs a bottle.”

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