Aza Bucci with Gemma, a six-month-old rescue kitten. The playful kitten has been learning tricks, giving Bucci and her boyfriend something to focus on other than COVID-19. (Aza Bucci/Sumitted)

Rescue kitten lifts mood of Saanich couple in isolation

Gemma has been acting more like a dog in ability to learn tricks

Aza Bucci has always had animals, but no animal has been quite like Gemma, the six-month-old female kitten of Bucci’s mother currently living with Aza and her boyfriend, while they are self-isolating in Saanich in response to COVID-19.

A rescue cat from a shelter in the United States is behaving, well, more like a dog.

“My dad thinks she fetches like a Labrador,” said Bucci. In fact, Gemma might actually be better. “She actually brings it back,” she added later.

The cat has been with them for about a month (Bucci’s mother is currently in Portugal) and over this time, Gemma has upped her playtime with her human hosts.

RELATED: Victoria Cat hotel offers free board for cat-owners hospitalized amid COVID-19 pandemic

“She kind of started training us,” said Aza. What had first started off as a couple of minutes of wanting to play fetch with a squeaky mouse toy, has since turned into play sessions of up to an hour in length, with increasingly more complex tricks.

“Now she is doing flips, and then we are trying to see how many she can do, stuff like that,” she said.

Now, they are trying to teach Gemma how to roll over given her obvious flexibility. Gemma also gets into the act herself, throwing up her toys, then trying to catch it herself.

Aza and her boyfriend have been in self-isolation from more than a week with the couple in the words of Bucci doing “OK.” But if the couple ever needs a boost, they can count on Gemma.

“She brings us joy,” she said. “She is out of a rescue [shelter], so it’s a mutual, great relationships.” For Aza and her boyfriend, teaching new tricks to Gemma has been a way to tune out, at least for a while, what has been happening and a chance to focus on something other than the pandemic.

Gemma, for her part, is blissfully unaware of what is happening.

Bucci doesn’t believe Gemma has picked up on any anxieties she and her boyfriend might be experiencing. “She is just happy to have me home all day,” she said.

With growing concerns about the state of animal shelters, Bucci hopes others will do something for shelter animals.

“Hopefully, some animals can get some help during this time, and I think it would be good for people too,” said Bucci.

And if Gemma is any indication, they might even learn a new trick or two.

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