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Oyster Bay sanctuary program pairs older people with senior cats

Peggy Bundas at her Oyster Bay home with

Peggy Bundas at her Oyster Bay home with her cat Sage on Tuesday. Credit: Howard Schnapp

With the loss of her husband, Peggy Bundas was in the market for a new companion, preferably one with some maturity.

The 85-year-old Oyster Bay resident wasn’t entirely convinced she would find the perfect new friend, but when Sage sauntered across the room toward her, she knew the 10-year-old orange tabby was the one.

Bundas is the first person to adopt a cat under the new Seniors for Seniors program at the Patricia H. Ladew  Foundation cat sanctuary in Oyster Bay. In February, the organization launched an initiative to pair seniors with aging cats. Since then, 14 people have adopted aging cats.

“He was like the old guy in the room,” Bundas said of Sage. “He was such a gentleman. I couldn’t take a kitten — they’re like a bowl of energy."

The sanctuary, previously named the Oyster Bay Cat Foundation, has been connecting cats and people for 44 years.

Current executive director Susan Whittred carries on the tradition of her long-time friend, most recently with the  initiative that saves senior cats from being euthanized.

“I thought of my own parents when they were aging,” said Whittred, who gifted her mother and father a senior cat when she started her second career as a veterinarian in 1999. “When we got them cats they completely changed."

Whittred said construction challenges at the sanctuary and the day-to-day operations stalled getting the senior-to-senior adoption program started. But when Girl Scout Jodi Yeh ,17, of Oyster Bay, approached her about a sustainable program for her Girl Scout Gold Award, Whittred said she saw an opportunity to start the new venture.

Yeh said she grew up with two senior cats of her own: Rocky and Feather.

For her project, Yeh polled more than 150 seniors throughout Oyster Bay and on social media from April to June. Her study found 82 percent of seniors feared their pets would outlive them, ending up in shelters. Additionally, nearly 80 percent of seniors Yeh surveyed were concerned with medical costs associated with adopting an aging cat.

“That’s when we decided we would cover reasonable medical costs,” said Whittred, a foundation veterinarian who cares for the 115 cats. Patricia Ladew, who had owned the sanctuary, left an endowment that helps fund the nonprofit that also relies on donations. 

In July, the sanctuary held its first "senior prom," a day when seniors tour the foundation's two-floor Victorian home and adjoining building to find a furry friend.

Sandy Amato, 69, was the first to adopt at the senior prom. The Port Washington resident picked a calico-tabby mix as the perfect match for the three cats she already lives with: Baggins,19, Quinn,16, and Paris,14.

“I wanted a cat that would get along with the rest of the crew,” said Amato, who was looking to replace a her 19-year-old Lilly that died. “It takes them a little time to get used to each other.”

Amato named her new cat Poppy and says she prefers older cats because they are less “rowdy."

“I like them as they are,” Amato said. “They’re just like me. When they get up in the morning they eat and then they need a nap.

Seniors for Seniors services at The Patricia H. Ladew Foundation

  • Adoptions
  • Open returns
  • Have a Heart Progam
  • Reasonable medical care at the facility (Seniors for Seniors only)
  • Seniors for Seniors Progam

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