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Robert Boeckman, 73

A lifelong cat owner and a president of Pet Pride talks about how important it is for people to maintain a pet at home

By Ernst Lamothe Jr.

Q: What is Pet Pride of New York, Inc.?

A: It is a nonprofit organization that focuses on no-kill cat shelter. We provide shelter and care for as many homeless or unwanted cats as possible without overcrowding, in a facility suited to the cats’ age and condition. We provide immediate and preventive health care for all cats in our care, including testing for feline leukemia and vaccination against diseases. Our adoption contracts include the provision for returning the animal in an extenuating circumstance so that the cat never again finds himself without a home.

Q: How did you get involved in the organization?

A: My wife and I have had cats for a long time. We have been married for 42 years and it has always been part of our lives. We knew we always wanted to have cats in our home. Then when we moved to the Victor area, we heard about this organization and wanted to be part of it. We first joined in the mid-1990s.

Q: What do you like about cats?

A: There is a myth that cats are aloof, off-putting and not friendly, but that is not even close to being true. They are some of the most loyal and affectionate animals you can imagine. They sometimes bind themselves to you so much that they grip to you with their claws because they want to be close to your presence. You become their mothers and they attach their affection and socialness to you. They really are social animals. We have six cats ourselves in our 24-acre land so our cats spend time indoors and outdoors.

Q: What tips do you have for new owners?

A: We tell owners that the first three to six months, it is important to really have a connection to your new cat because they really want to be bonded with you. Cats strive on affection and they require you to pay attention to them. A lot of their misbehavior comes from not paying attention or if they are just bored. Or it comes from them being stir crazy. They really want to spend a lot of time with you. They are great companion animals.

Q: Why do you think pets in general are important for seniors?

A: It’s an incredible experience for seniors to have animals. They become your children and part of your family. Many times seniors have lost their spouse or their children and grandchildren live far away. Even when they live close they don’t get to see them every day. An animal becomes a great companion. They have personalities just like you and they can tell when you are happy and, more importantly, they can tell when you are unhappy. They provide a comfort level for you and they can fulfill an inner need of closeness that everyone wants. It is almost therapeutical to have an animal. They can even sense when you are not feeling well. Cats especially have an incredible sense of smell. And as a chemistry professor at the University of Rochester, it is known that people emit a certain scent when they are not feeling well. Animals can comfort you during that time. We have a cat in the shelter called Kipper who we take to nursing homes and our seniors absolutely love it when they see Kipper.

Q: What are some of the future goals for Pet Pride?

A: We of courses want to grow and help even more cats. Our long term goal is to build a facility that can handle an incredible amount of cats because there are a lot of them that still need homes. In too many other situations outside of our organization, you have cats that are being euthanized. We currently have room for 41 cats; 26 adults and 15 kittens. We always make sure that we can care for all the animals in our care.