Nursing home planning elaborate St. Patrick’s Day birthday party for new feline resident

Frank Carlson, 87, a resident at Brandon Woods at Alvamar, hugs Patrick, the nursing home’s resident cat. Patrick will have a party in his honor today to celebrate his first birthday.

Things don’t usually get too wild and crazy on St. Patrick’s Day at the Brandon Woods nursing home, but this year may be an exception.

Staff are planning an elaborate birthday party Sunday for one of the newest residents, complete with presents, cupcakes, party masks, a treasure hunt — and catnip. The day belongs to Patrick, a black cat who is celebrating his first birthday at Brandon Woods.

Residents and staff have become so enamored with the playful and gregarious young cat that Helen Bennett, a home health aide who works at Brandon Woods, thought they needed to spare no effort in celebrating his first birthday. She was busy this weekend prepping for the party, decorating cupcakes with cat ears and making catnip toys.

“I’m going all out,” Bennett said Thursday.

Patrick came to Brandon Woods last month with Frank Carlson, 87, of Lawrence, and has taken up an informal role as a “cat therapist,” Bennett said, available to cheer up residents 24 hours a day, seven days a week. At first, he was called “Snookums,” but his name was changed when folks found that hard to remember.

Unlike the home’s previous resident cat — a survivor of the 2007 Greensburg tornado — who was always skittish and shy, Patrick seems to crave attention and seeks out residents to play with at all hours of the day.

So far, he’s been successful in winning over residents, who pass time entertaining him with small fishing rod toys. Some can’t be bothered to come out of their rooms for dinner unless Patrick is around to play with, said Mary Montgomery, the nursing home’s activities director.

“They love him,” Montgomery said. “He’s very playful. He struts his stuff. He just came in like he owns the place.”

On Sunday, residents who can’t make it out to see the St. Patrick’s Day parade will be able to have some fun of their own while watching the parade on TV. Bennett is planning to fix up the activity room with Goldfish crackers, Kit-Kat candy bars, cat masks, and a scavenger hunt of catnip toys to keep Patrick bouncing through all of the residents’ rooms. There is even a possibility of someone dressing up in a black cat costume.

“I think he’s going to be pretty happy,” Bennett said. “But then, he’s always happy.”