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Gentle Tomcat Comforts Elderly Veterans In Need Of Love And Support

Animals seem to have a healing power. You automatically feel better when you have your furbaby cuddling beside you when you are sick. In Salem, Virginia, the Salem VA Medical Center has Tom the tomcat to perform this magic trick for their patients.
comforting cat
Image Credit: Salem VA Medical Center
In 2012, after reading the book “Making Rounds with Oscar,” – which is about a cat who helped comfort people suffering from dementia – physician assistant Laura Hart and chief nurse Dottie Rizzo decided to bring a cat to help the veterans at their hospital. Tom the cat was hired for the job!
comforting cat
Image Credit: Salem VA Medical Center
Tom moves from room to room and cuddles with the patients.
comforting cat
Image Credit: Salem VA Medical Center
Army veteran James Gearheart said Tom seems to know if someone is having a hard time and will spend a little more time with them on his rounds.
comforting cat
Tom is loving and gentle. Tom has also been know to comfort the staff after losing a patient. Dr. Blake Lipscomb recalled that Tom looked up at him and meowed shortly after he pronounced a veteran dead.
comforting cat
Image Credit: Salem VA Medical Center
For patients who don’t like cats, there is a ‘No Cat Zone’ – but Tom has plenty of other places to meet new people and comfort patients.
comforting cat
Image Credit: Salem VA Medical Center
One patient with Parkinson’s disease can talk more clearly when Tom is on his lap. Petting the ginger cat helps relax his vocal cords and his mind.
comforting cat
Image Credit: Salem VA Medical Center
When the staff goes on lunch break, they seek out Tom to share love and treats! Others will check and make sure his litter box is clean and that he has fresh water. Share away, people!

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