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Posted on Thu, Jul 15, 2010 : 11:30 a.m.

Doctor's prescription for lonely older patient: Adopt a cat

By Cathy Theisen DVM


Elizabeth Hoffman, 82, cuddles with Alfie, 16.

Photo by Yarrow

Elizabeth Hoffman was 66 years old and alone. She'd lost her beloved Siamese cat, Floyd, at the age of 14, and felt truly despondent.

She thought about getting another cat, but a family member discouraged her, saying she was too old to get a new animal, and it would be too expensive to maintain. Hoffman sadly thought this might be true.

Fortunately, she had an appointment with her physician, Dr. Mel Barclay, the next day. They talked a bit about some of her health issues, and Hoffman told Dr. Barclay what had happened with Floyd and how depressed she was.

She remembers how kind and compassionate he was, empathizing with her loneliness, and listening to her story. When she went to check out, the receptionist handed her three prescriptions, one of which was for a Siamese cat. It meant so much to her -- she still has the prescription 16 years later!


The prescription reads "One Siamese Cat".

photo by Yarrow

Hoffman put that prescription on her fridge and considered it for a week, and then decided she'd better follow the doctor's orders, age be damned. She adopted 10-week-old Alfie, and says he was "like a medicine" that helped her to heal.

Says Hoffman of her previous pets, "You don't ever forget them, like any loved one. You hold them in your heart. But sometimes the love of another can help you heal, and Dr. Barclay knew that would be the case for me. I loved that man."

I met Hoffman in April, when the now 16-year-old Alfie fell ill with a common geriatric disease of cats, hyperthyroidism. Chatting one day, she told me how Alfie came to be hers, and I thought the story was worth sharing. I looked up Dr. Barclay online; much to my dismay I found his obituary. If only I could have shared with him what a difference his compassion made in the lives of Hoffman and Alfie.

Dr. Cathy Theisen is a house call veterinarian in Ann Arbor, with 24 years experience in small animal medicine and surgery. Visit her website at, or e-mail questions/comments to



Wed, Jul 21, 2010 : 11:06 a.m.

Mel Barclay was an incredible person and physician. We miss his wisdom every day. Thanks so much for the story. We hear new things like this about Mel often. Eric Barclay Lipson


Fri, Jul 16, 2010 : 9:19 p.m.

I think the best part of the perscription is the word ONE


Fri, Jul 16, 2010 : 9:22 a.m.

What a wonderful story! We need more MDs like Dr. Barclay - sometimes the best medicine is listening. I 2nd MjC's comment about there being many adult and senior kitties waiting for homes at the Humane Society. We've always adopted adult cats, and they make wonderful companions.


Fri, Jul 16, 2010 : 3:02 a.m.

Excellent story! Excellent Doctor! Need more feel-good stories like this these days. Thanks again!

Lorrie Shaw

Thu, Jul 15, 2010 : 3:49 p.m.

This story made my day. Pets add so much to our lives: they give the best of themselves to us without abandon, and encourage us to do the same. Dr. Barclay was a very wise man. I wonder how many seniors would be open to opening their lives to foster homeless cats, if they had some reservations about adopting. That would be incredible.


Thu, Jul 15, 2010 : 1:27 p.m.

That's a good script!


Thu, Jul 15, 2010 : 11:03 a.m.

If only Dr. Barclay was still alive - I'd ask to become his patient. What a compassionate doctor he must have been! I hope someone from his family sees this article. It's a wonderful story (thank you for sharing it). There are many cats waiting to be adopted at the Humane Society. People don't have to adopt kittens - older cats need loving and secure homes too.