Our furry feline friends are just like our human friends: they are there for us in the good times and in bad times; they celebrate with us when things are going well, but they always comfort us when we are sad. Cats have great intuition and can tell when we need some cheering up, which is why they make the perfect companions and comforters. Tom the cat is one such cat, making news headlines, as he has quite the role: Tom comforts veterans in a Virginia hospice, giving them the support and comfort they need in their final days when they are ready to pass on.
The feline resides at the Virginia Medical Center in Salem, Virginia in the palliative care unit creating a homelike environment and offering his company to veterans since the kitty was adopted in May 2012 from the Animal Care Center of Salem. The idea for getting a cat companion for the hospice patients came from lead physician’s assistant Laura Hart, after hearing an inspiring talk by Dr. David Dosa, who wrote a book about a comforting cat. Along with Dottie Rizzo, the palliative care coordinator, Hart was on a mission to find the right cat for the job, looking to local veterinarians for the purrfect kitty. They ended up finding the perfect cat in Tom thanks to an Animal Care Center of Salem staffer.
“We have seen first-hand the impact that he makes on the families and the patients and even our staff,” Rizzo said. “A hospice can be a really sad place to be and work and Tom brings a calmness and normalcy to our unit. We try to be a home-like environment and a pet kind of takes it to the level that maybe it is a little more like home here with him.”
Since his arrival, Tom has seemed to touch the lives of many – not only the veterans he’s been meant to comfort, but also the many families of those veterans who have seen what the feline can do.
“Families don’t want their loved ones being alone, and it’s comforting for them to know Tom is there,” Ms. Hart said. “And it’s amazing how many of the families really feel that Tom is there to be with their family member when they die, whether he kind of comes and herds the family into the room right before the patient passes, or he just curls up on a patient’s bed in their final hours.”
(Photo Source: Pam Thompson)