PENNSYLVANIA – Maybe it is their generally aloof nature or their independence streak or somewhat surly expression that gives cats the reputation for not wanting to listen.
But evidently, cats do like to hear a good story.
The Pennsylvania SPCA has recently launched a new summer reading program that will pair gregarious grade schoolers with friendly felines and is aptly named “Cat Tales.”
The program will run each and every Tuesday from July 5 to August 30 between 10 a.m. and 1 a.m. at the shelter located at 350 E. Erie Ave., in North Philadelphia.
Reading to therapy dog programs have been around for quite a while. The shelter tested out the reading with cats just this spring with help from students at Agora Cyber Charter School, said Mandy Hood, humane education, and outreach manager for the shelter.
“We were amazed at how the cats responded,” stated Hood.
With all the cat-themed books you would think Cat in the Hat, Puss in Boots, Dewey the Library Cat, or Skippyjon Jones: Up and Down would have been very popular choices to read but that is just not so.
The most popular book was Walter the Farting Dog.
“They like it,” Hood, stated of the young readers. “They crack up.”
Actually, it is the child’s voice itself that mesmerizes the cats. They encourage the children to talk in a sweet, very gentle and respectful tone, she explained.
Cats “swoon over it,” Hood stated.”You can read a magazine in there and as long as you use the right voice [the cats] are happy.”
Their reading even works to draw out the more shy kitties. Well, that and a few treats, that is!
“They are showered with treats and they love it,” Hood stated.
The children, who are mostly in third through eighth grades, will spend 30 minutes reading to about four or five adoptable felines.
“It helps the cats become use to tiny people,” Hood. With the extra socialization, the cats become more adoptable, she explained.
It also helps the kids greatly with reading skills and confidence.
“It is just them and the cat, no one is there to judge them,” Hood stated.
A retired school principal, early childhood educators and literary and library volunteers are always on hand to help.
“I feel like we have the dream team of volunteers running the program,” Hood stated.
Participants for this particular PSPCA program are urged to sign up in advance and can email [email protected], call 267-463-2329 or fill out an online form here.