Eyes full of anticipation, gasps and squeals filled a room at Providence Horizon House Wednesday afternoon, covering the soft sounds of kittens meowing. Seniors at the assisted living home rubbed their faces on the furry babies, coddled them in blankets and watched them play with cat toys. 

It's a tough job, but someone has to do it. 

Anchorage Animal Care and Control has called on the residents to help them out with a very important mission: socializing with young foster kittens that will soon be up for adoption.  

Debbie Sis, who volunteers as a cat foster mom, wheeled in a stroller carrying seven wide-eyed kittens for an hour of socialization. 

The benefits are two-fold. The kittens get used to being around different people, which makes them more adoptable, while the seniors reap the medical rewards. 

"There are scientific studies about how purring is so healing for us and it lowers blood pressure, grounds us and you know, when you just hold a kitten on your lap or play with a kitten, [...] you can compartmentalize and put your troubles away for a while while you’re playing with a kitten," Sis said. 

Scientific studies have shown owning a cat can lower stress levels, leading to a lower risk of heart disease. Even watching cat videos online can boost energy and positive emotions, according to a study by Indiana University Bloomington

"Just to see the smiles on their faces and how relaxed and content they look as they’re holding those kittens, I mean how could that not make your day," said Laura Atwood, public relations coordinator for Anchorage Animal Care and Control. 

She said Sis is also a hospice worker, and the idea for Kitten Social Hour started with one of her patients. 

"She was working with a patient who really missed her cats, so Debbie had two foster kittens at that time and asked us for permission to bring those foster kittens to visit her and we said, 'Yeah, let's do that.'" Atwood explained. "Then talking to Debbie and what it did for that woman, we thought, 'This is something we'd like to continue.'"  

Before the kittens were old enough to visit, Atwood said they showed people at the home photos of the kittens while pitching the idea. 

Resident Kat Wickstrom, who used to own several cats, has been waiting to see the kittens ever since. 

"It's like heaven," she said, stroking a gray kitten that fell asleep on her chest. 

Wednesday's event was the first. Events in the future will depend on the age and how many kittens are in foster care.  

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