Reading to cats

Susan
Susan Flanagan
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Cats, children and books the purrfect combination at SPCA Pet Pals program

On a cold windy day in March my friend Amy invited No. 5 and me to the SPCA to read to cats with her children, Molly and Patrick.
“OK,” I said.

I love cats and I love to read. Plus we’ve done stranger things.

So I gathered up some easy reads — I wasn’t sure about the cats’ attention spans — and a stool. I invited our neighbours to join in the fun and once we were all loaded in the Flanavan we were off to the SPCA next to the old provincial rec centre which now houses offices and sets for Republic of Doyle. It’s on RCAF Road which is on the Torbay Road side of the airport, the first left after Harvey’s when you’re heading north.

You know, where gold-gilded private jets land.

A large blue and white poster greets us when we walk in to the SPCA. “Statistics for last week,” it reads. “20 animals taken into care. 14 animals adopted.” Across from the poster, Noam, a five-year-old cat who lives at the SPCA, catches a few zzzs on the photocopier.

I grew up with cats, including a loveable Siamese savage named Mouse but if I took home a cat today I would have to find homes for two allergy-prone children.

I weigh the pros and cons. I guess today I’m just here to read.

The SPCA is a busy place on a Saturday afternoon.

One family is selecting not one, but two cats, to replace their pet who recently died.

Other families come in and out, some more interested in the dogs housed at the back than the cats who take up three rooms.

We are greeted by Lesley Raymond, volunteer co-ordinator at the SPCA, who recently established a children’s club called Pet Pals.

“Pet Pals is a club for kids who want to help animals and learn more about what the SPCA does,” says Leslie, whose passion for animals spills over in conversation.

Annual membership is $15. This gets your child a T-shirt, a colouring book and quarterly newsletters.

Lesley suggests we do our stuff in the largest cat room, temporary home to a dozen felines.

Here cats sleep, eat, play and or meow from their cages.

Certain cats have to be segregated due to dietary concerns or possible hostility or impregnation by other cats, Leslie explains.

As we enter, almost all ears are fully upright like spy antennae, interested in our every move.

One cat stands out from the others. Her name is Rumour or maybe it’s Rumer (she might be named after Bruce Willis and Demi Moore’s daughter). However her name is spelled, Rumour rules the roost, so to speak.

She tries to make a break for it when the door opens.

Once we get inside she gives us all a sniff-over and then heads to Rocky’s cage.

Rocky is a black long-haired beauty on a special diet.

 Rumour sticks her mitt into Rocky’s wet food, retracts her paw and proceeds to lick the food off the pads of her foot. She then struts around poking her head in the bag of books, no doubt anxious for the reading to begin.

Once we start she perches herself on my stool.

The cats showed various levels of interest in our reading session.

I guess it depended on the different subjects in the books. When not fully immersed in the reading material, some cats deliberately turned their heads and ate, or worse, went to the bathroom. But others made up for their rude behaviour and were fully engaged.

Like the cats, the children sometimes were engrossed in reading and other times just wanted to play with the fishing rod-type toys making cats bat at feathers and toy mice.

But most importantly, I think, the children and the cats all had fun.

If you’re interested in reading to cats, round up your favourite story and get in touch with Lesley.

Seriously don’t knock it until you try it. Especially if, like me, you can’t have cats in your home due to allergies. You can take the non-allergic children on a Pet Pal outing. Just make sure you wash your clothes when you get home.

Lesley can be reached by phone at 726-0301 or email volunteer@spcastjohns.org. She will soon be establishing a monthly VIP night for Pet Pals members.

 

Susan can be reached at susan@48degrees.ca.

Organizations: Pet Pals

Geographic location: Republic of Doyle, RCAF Road, Torbay Road

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  • Lesley
    April 22, 2014 - 10:06

    Thank you so much for writing this fantastic article! I'm thrilled!