Westchester Pet Rescue offers kitten therapy to CT residents

For Julie Cialone and Marla Valentine, co-directors of Rock n’ Rescue in South Salem, NY, adoption isn’t just about giving a home to an animal in need, it’s also about providing emotional support to the community. The organization, which has cats, dogs, rabbits and guinea pigs for adoption, provides services to residents of New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

“We started noticing that many of our adopters were bringing back stories of how our animals had impacted their lives in terms of health and well-being,” Cialone said. “Then we started to take a more therapeutic approach and started thinking that we weren’t just saving animals, but we were saving the people involved in the rescue.”

Rock n’ Rescue offers pet therapy programs for area nursing homes, hospitals and schools. Some of these programs include “Kitty Clubs” at nursing homes in which six to 10 kittens are brought to the facility to play and spend time with residents.

One of Rock n’ Rescue’s partners is Ann’s Place in Danbury, a cancer support centre. During therapy sessions, participants gather in a circle around a playground. Volunteers then go around and ask people how they feel playing with the kittens. After this activity, participants are paired with kittens for “cuddling time.”

“Some residents are unable to verbalize how they feel and their emotions, so we use the kittens to interact with their emotions,” said Valentine, who trained as a social worker. Other Connecticut facilities working with Rock n’ Rescue include River Glen Health Care Center, a nursing facility in Southbury.

Rock n’ Rescue is a non-profit pet shelter located in South Salem, New York. The rescue offers pet therapy at facilities in New York and Connecticut. Over the past two years, the rescue has had 1,593 Connecticut adoptions, half of which were from Fairfield County residents.

Contributed by Rock n’ Rescue

Even when facility residents don’t want to participate in activities, just being able to observe the kittens makes a difference in their mood, Valentine said.

“Laughter is an important part of the therapeutic process… Seeing people being happy around animals makes other people happy too,” said Cialone, who also added that sometimes Rock n’ Rescue dresses up the kittens in costumes.

On the adoption side, Rock n’ Rescue matches residents of neighboring states, including Connecticut, with the perfect pet for their family.

One of them is Weston resident Joy Goldblatt, who is involved as a pet foster parent and recently adopted her cat, Sven.

“Being able to like something and be comforted by something when we’re upset, I think is overall good for everyone in the house,” said Goldblatt, whose daughter named the cat after Disney’s “Frozen” character.

Sven was found without eyes on the streets of Alabama. According to Goldblatt, it took almost no time to become familiar with their home and he now jumps and runs around the house without hesitation. During her two years as a foster parent, Goldblatt fostered around 25 kittens in addition to Sven.

“It’s really rewarding to be able to help out and give back,” Goldblatt said.

Sven, found without eyes in Alabama, was adopted by Joy Goldblatt and her family from Rock n' Rescue.

Sven, found without eyes in Alabama, was adopted by Joy Goldblatt and her family from Rock n’ Rescue.

Contributed by Joy Goldblatt

Partnering with rescue shelters in southern states such as Kentucky, Alabama and Florida, Rock n’ Rescue processes more than 2,000 adoptions annually. The organization partners with more than 75 pet foster families in Connecticut.

“We are always looking for foster families, it’s huge for us. We know we can do a lot more adoptions if we had more,” Cialone said. Over the past two years, Rock n’ Rescue has placed over 1,5000 pets with Connecticut residents.

While Rock n’ Rescue currently relies entirely on adoptive parents to house rescued pets, the organization is looking to open a physical location in the near future.

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