Cat Tales reading program gives children and cats confidence


Oliver and Alyssa Moffatt read a Dr. Seuss book as Uno the kitten perches on Alyssa’s shoulder for a better view. (Amy Felegy/Review)

Mackenna Gilde reads to shelter cat Turtle as her mom, Heidi, helps groom the cat. “Turtle can’t lick herself all the way, so she has to have people brush her,” the 9-year-old says. (Amy Felegy photos/Review)

Caring for Cats is located at 2131 Division St. in North St. Paul.

Just more than a year after its debut, one North St. Paul program continues making a handful of children and cats happier, page by page.

Cat Tales, a reading program at shelter Caring for Cats, invites children once a week to read their favorite books to their favorite felines. 

Karen Brown, a Caring for Cats volunteer, started the program back in May 2018 after noticing a behavior in her own cats.

“When I would get on the telephone at home, I’m talking on the phone but my cats would think I’m talking to them,” Brown says. 

This vocal responsiveness gave her the idea to start Cat Tales at the volunteer-run, no-kill shelter. 

“I thought, okay, ‘So if we bring in kids to read, the cats are going to be interested,’” Brown says.

On Sunday afternoons, children and their parents, grandparents or guardians bring books from home or use the shelter’s books donated by the Friends of the Inver Glen Library. Time slots are 30 minutes long, and Brown says the program is filled to the brim with interested readers. It helps both the cats and children be less shy — around people and reading aloud, respectively. 

“They’re meeting these kids laying on a blanket or sitting on a blanket, reading in their regular voice,” Brown says, noting it socializes cats without scaring them. “[The children] aren’t running around. They aren’t jumping, they aren’t screaming.”

Cat Tales sees 12 to 14 children a month during all seasons, with books and smiles in tow. Mackenna Gilde, 9, has been reading to her favorite cats at the shelter since the program began. She says her 17-year-old cat at home ignores her when she reads, so Gilde takes her books and brings them to the shelter cats instead.

“I like to read and I like cats, so ...” Gilde says. “Sometimes if there’s new cats I like to read to them and get to know them.”

But Gilde’s favorite cat is Turtle, so she says she likes to start reading right away with her. Gilde’s mom, Heidi Gilde, says the program has been good news for her two daughters. 

“She likes to read and I thought you know what, that would be great,” says Heidi. “The whole mission they have to get them acclimated to people — what a cool program!”

The Gildes heard about Cat Tales through the shelter’s Facebook page, something Brown says has been instrumental in overall awareness of not only the program, but also of adoptable cats.

“We just started really ramping up our social media team,” Brown says. “We keep the page rolling.”

People as far away as the United Kingdom have interacted on the Facebook page, which posts announcements, adoptions, pictures and upcoming events. But Cat Tales participants can get all of this in person.

“You see the rotation of the kitties, and seeing them get adopted is a lot of fun,” Heidi says. “It’s nice to be able to have access to the cats and help try to socialize them.”

After six visits, Cat Tales readers are awarded a $5 gift card of their choice. Those interested in Cat Tales can visit www.caring-for-cats.org to sign up for a Sunday afternoon time slot. 

Children ages 6 to 13 can participate. Caring for Cats is located at 2131 Division St. in North St. Paul and is open to the public Monday, Tuesday and Friday from 5 to 7:30 p.m., and weekends from 1 to 3 p.m.

 

–Amy Felegy can be reached at afelegy@lillienews.com or 651-748-7815.

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