Rescued Cat Helps ICU Hospital Patients Feel Joy

By: Nathan Grant

In November of 2010, Duke Ellington was adopted from San Francisco Animal Care and Control by Isa and Jennifer Morris. At the time taken in by the shelter, Duke was a starving, feral cat.

Image and Credit: Jessica Bernstein-Wax/UCSF

"We went into the cage area and Duke was very smitten by my daughter. So I figured the cat couldn't be all that bad," Jennifer told the Dodo.

Image and Credit: Jennifer Morris

At first, Jennifer had assumed Duke would be a quiet cat, a little nervous about the new family. What really happened surprised the family!

Right form the start, Duke was comfortable at home.

Image and Credit: Jennifer Morris

He sprang from his enclosure "and started surveilling the apartment like he already owned it," said Jennifer.

When company would come over, Duke would grow excited to greet the visitors, and he would snuggle up and purr on everyone's lap. Clearly, Duke had a gift for bringing joy to people through cuddles!

Image and Credit: Barbara Ries/UCSF

To let Duke use his goodness, Jennifer signed him up to become a part of the San Francisco SPCA's Animal Assisted Therapy Program. Quickly, Duke was accepted into the program.

Image and Credit: Barbara Ries/UCSF

"He went to two different sessions to see if he was a good fit and he passed with flying colors," Jennifer said. "They did all sorts of tests. A whole bunch of employees from the SPCA sat in the room and Duke made the rounds going from person to person."

When Duke became a part of the therapy program, he joined with 17 dogs. All of the animals work to make patients in the UCSF Medical Center feel comfortable in their time of need.

Image and Credit: Jessica Bernstein-Wax/UCSF

Duke enjoys being pet and has fun meeting new people each day. His kindness and purr manages to be therapeutic for all of the patients that meet him!

"Some of our patients very much want to see a cat," Fernandez says. "Some of them like cats in general. And other patients have cats at home and they miss their cats. So it's nice to see Duke as a surrogate."

Image and Credit: Jessica Bernstein-Wax/UCSF

Duke gets in all the cuddles he can, and then heads onto the cart to journey to the next room! Being on the cart allows Duke to see everything around him while they move around.

"I used to wheel Duke from the psychiatry department all the way over to the ICU and the looks I would get from other doctors while transporting my cat over to the ICU were pretty ... how should I say it? Yeah, I got some pretty interesting looks."

Image and Credit: Barbara Ries/UCSF

Now, Duke's cart is always in the ICU—so no more funny looks! 

Of course, Duke goes home and spends time with his loving family. Talk about never ending cuddle time!

Check out this video of Duke doing what he does best:

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