"They love the company," said Washburne, who, for many years, has taken cats to visit senior citizens at local nursing homes. "They love to see them, pet them, talk to them."
Washburne remembered a couple of times when her visits brought about results that were nothing short of amazing.
"I went to a therapy room, and one lady looked sort of out of it," she said. "I put the cat on her lap, and she slowly put her arms around him. The young girl … I think she was a volunteer, starting calling for people to come look because Mrs. So-and-So was using her arms. There was another time when I put the cat's head under a lady's hand and she starting petting him … they couldn't believe she was moving her wrist. Sometimes people who won't respond to anything else will react to animals."
Washburne has been taking cats from the Putnam County shelter to local nursing homes for over 10 years. For many of those years the cat she took was Rocko, who recently passed away.
Her feline companion now is Maggie, who is estimated to be about 10 months old. Maggie is a lovable tiger kitten who loves to lick and nuzzle.
"She's what I call a teenager," Washburne said. "She walks on a harness. She lives at the shelter … she can't wait for me to come get her and take her."
To make obtaining a pet easier for local seniors, the board of the Humane Society of Putnam County recently approved a no-fee adoption policy for the cats and kittens still housed at the shelter.
"HSPC, like other humane facilities, understands the therapeutic value of owning a pet, especially to independently living senior citizens," said Lynn Bohmer, HSPC board member. "The needs of cats are relatively few … love and attention, food and water, a clean litter box and veterinary care. Understanding these mutual benefits, many humane societies across the country have adopted their cats free of charge to senior citizens when their cat population is high, or in some cases, throughout the year."
Any senior citizen residing in Putnam County may apply for a free feline adoption. Applicants must complete an HSPC adoption agreement, and the cat must reside with the adopting senior.
Finding homes for the animals still at the shelter will make it possible for the HSPC to take the next steps toward reopening.
"Although we are officially closed and not accepting any more animals, we are still caring for 23 unadopted felines," said Bohmer. "We must find suitable homes so that we can devote our energies, both physical and financial, to again becoming a full-service animal shelter for the county."
In order to reopen, Bohmer said, "we need to have the resources to make necessary repairs to the shelter, as well as have a reserve fund of at least $26,000 so that we don't immediately meet another financial crisis."
Weather permitting, some of the available felines will be at the Greencastle Tractor Supply store on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.