Did you know petting cats reduces stress? Last summer, researchers from Washington State University confirmed in the peer-reviewed journal AERA Open the link between showing affection to pets and reducing stress levels in a realistic environment.

In fact, thousands of college campuses across the United States and Canada have animal visitation programs. Most involve bringing dogs, cats to pet for a short while. It works. So, with all else equal, it’s not a bad idea to become a cat owner. We’re living in a COVID world. Added stressors are everywhere.

Where to find a cat? The Invermere Companion Animal Network (ICAN). ICAN is a registered non-profit, no-kill, no-cage animal rescue, foster and adoption facility. Started in 2007, the organization serves the Columbia Valley from Canal Flats to Spillimacheen. Staff and board members are volunteers. The annual budget is entirely fundraised. Last year, ICAN helped 156 cats find new homes. Close to 7,899 volunteer hours were logged among fifty-seven dedicated volunteers. Approximately two-thousand cats have been adopted though ICAN in the past thirteen years.

ICAN’s facility is a homely residence located in Athalmer. The house of cat. There’s an office, and an outside space. In the back, there’s a rehabilitation space. “It’s a unique little place,” said Dee Middlemiss, ICAN’s new board secretary. “Cats are easily frightened, the rehab space in the back is perfect for them to calm down. There’s even a room just for kittens.” ICAN’s cats aren’t free. Monies paid to adopt a new best friend go toward vet bills incurred before a cat finds her new home. ICAN pays for kittens to be spayed or neutered.

Each year, ICAN has two flagship fundraisers that together bring in close to 15,000 dollars. This year, both were canceled due to COVID-19. In their place was a fundraiser that took place August 26th at Ozzie’s Amusements. Chris Leonard and Katherine Locke own Ozzie’s, and Katherine is on ICAN’s board as treasurer. For four hours, Chris and Katherine donated their businesses proceeds all toward ICAN.

“The event was a great success,” said Middlemiss. “We were able to raise $5,000.” ICAN’s expenses continue to incur regardless if fundraising money comes in. Until further notice, the facility is closed to visitors. All contact is by appointment only. Despite the new restrictions, ICAN is processing adoption applications as usual and arranging for private viewing sessions. There are a handful of kittens and cats available right now. On ICAN’s Facebook page, there are adorable photos of these cats worth checking out.

For more information and to donate, visit icanbc.com.