Purrrfect partnership between Wolfson Children's Hospital and Jacksonville Humane Society allows kids in isolation to play remotely with cooped-up kitties 


Wolfson Children’s Hospital and the Jacksonville Humane Society (JHS) officially launched the Play with Cats program in April, a collaborative project that gives children in isolation the chance to play with kittens and cats from the Jacksonville Humane Society without actually being in the same room.

The system uses high-speed data networks, high-definition cameras and interactive toys to put kids in control of three different cat toys at the shelter with the push of a button, and then the ability to watch on the TV as the animals react and play with them. Patients who are in isolation with a specific treatment or a chronic medical condition like cystic fibrosis or bone marrow transplant can now do what many other kids at Wolfson Children’s Hospital already enjoy; visit with an adorable furry friend.

Made possible with a $15,000 grant from the Mattel Children’s Foundation, the Play with Cats program connects to 151 hospital rooms throughout Wolfson Children’s Hospital via GetWellNetwork. The grant was coordinated through the Children's Hospital Association.

“Play through programs like the Play with Cats project has a powerful normalizing effect on a child’s hospital stay,” said Wolfson Children’s Hospital President Michael D. Aubin.

Wolfson Children’s Hospital has long recognized the healing power of pets. The Wolfson Children’s Hospital Auxiliary started a Pet Therapy Program in 1995. Two years ago, the hospital launched a pet visitation program called Comforting Paws, allowing children with long-term stays or in end-of-life situations to receive a visit from their own dog.

“This is the latest program to be implemented at Wolfson Children’s Hospital to give more of our patients a chance to interact with a kitten or cat, which provides a welcome distraction,” said Pat Kirkland, Family Support Services Manager at Wolfson Children’s Hospital. “About 20 percent of our patients are on isolation at some time during their stay, so we are excited to bring the healing power of an animal friend to the bedside.”

“Our partnership with Wolfson Children’s Hospital began with JHS veterinarians providing required vet checks and vaccines that allow patients in the hospital to visit with their own dogs. We are proud to expand the partnership through Play with Cats so that all patients may benefit from the healing power of animals,” said Denise Deisler, executive director of the Jacksonville Humane Society.

The Play with Cats program was made possible by financial support from Mattel Children’s Foundation.

Wolfson Children’s Hospital relies on the generosity of members of our community. To support Wolfson Children’s Hospital, please visit wolfsonchildrens.org/waystogive.

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