Program Encourages Children to Read to Cats at Animal Shelter

Cale Martin loves cats, the only thing is, he’s allergic to them. Even though he suffers with bad allergies from cats, he takes allergie medication that he doesn’t mind doing, which allows him to be able to reads to cats at the Humane Society of Weld County. Martin has his favorites, and it came easy too, because Martin is 8. When you are 8, it is much easier to get attached than if you were, say, 48. On his last visit, he developed a relationship with a little black feline that sported a black collar, and her name is Pretty Girl. Pretty Girl had a lot of ribs that you could see, due to life on the street. When Martin was there, she was still adjusting to her new home at the shelter, but she really liked little Cale Martin. And it’s not just Pretty Girl who likes Martin, either. Pretty much, most of the cats there like Cale Martin and they all know they’ll get a scratch behind the ears, when they see him.

Cale’s mom, Kelly, had hoped to help fill time for Cale during the summer months he’d be away from his school. One way she’d planned this, was to have him volunteer at the shelter and put his love of animals to work for him, and the animals. The only thing was, Cale was too young. Then, Cale’s mother heard about the Once Upon a Time program. Kara Englert had an idea, it was to ask kids to read to the cats in the shelter. Englert is a teacher and she followed the lead of shelters all over the U.S.

Englert said that they understand that cats don’t really understand the story (which she said was a good thing since Cale brought in, “The Bravest Dog Ever.” But that’s not really the point of the program, of course, according to Elaine Schmidt, the executive director of the animal shelter. She went on to explain that cats need interaction with humans too, just like dogs. But interaction isn’t as easy for cats, you can’t take them for walks, like dogs. There is a lot less to do with cats than dogs, but when they get interaction with humans, they do better. They are better behaved and are better overall, mentally.

Last year, the shelter had this same program for just the summer, but officials have said that they hope to carry out the program throughout the whole year. According to the officials at the shelter, there are between 25-50 kids that come into the shelter to read to the cats. Cale Martin really enjoys petting the cats more than he likes reading to them, although he knows what the main goal is. He said, “I feel awesome that I’m actually socializing the cats so they can be adopted,” Cale said.

Martin has a real knack for “socializing” the cats, since he really likes the petting of the cats. Snow White is one of the cats that would not allow anyone to pet her. Then, one day, while Martin was reading to a whole room full of cats, Snow White went up to Martin and let him pet her.

Not only does reading to the cats help them, but it also benefits Martin, too. It has helped him to be more patient. He has learned that he must take things a bit slow with the cats and be patient in order for them to get used to him and allow him to pet them. One kitten, Turbo, who was adopted by the Martin’s about a month ago, loves laser pointers and she has been very cool with Martin’s extroverted personality. Not all of the cats are as accepting of that, at first. Even though it may take some a little while to warm up to him, it’s his irresistible personality that ends up winning the cats over. One black feline didn’t leave his side the whole time he was reading. At first, Kelly didn’t recognize the little black cat, and he was amazed at how much Martin and the cat bonded. Then, Kelly recognized her, “This is Pretty Girl!” Kelly said. “She looks so much better now.”

Pretty Girl had plumped up a bit and was a little bit sassier in her personality. She was doing much better, and she didn’t care for the other cats to approach, and get close to Martin. She attached herself to Martin and thinks he is her own. Pretty Girl doesn’t know about Turbo. All she knew was that the boy she really liked, was back.

Pretty Girl rubbed her head on Martin’s leg and purred while he read. “I love you, too,” Cale said.

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