You Know How It’s Great When People Read To Shelter Dogs? You Can Do It With Cats, Too!

Photo credit: Cat Depot

There’s been so much great press about folks who go to animal shelters and read to the dogs.

These literary sessions help the dogs get comfortable with people — which in turns helps get them adopted.

Well guess what? There’s a shelter in Sarasota, Florida that does the same with cats.

“Perception is that dogs are better listeners, while the truth is cats have great attention spans and can sit and listen for hours,” says Cat Depot‘s executive directly Shelley Thayer. “If they don’t try to lie across the book you are trying to read to get even more of your attention.”

Photo credit: Cat Depot

Cat Depot began encouraging visitors to read to cats starting in 2009 — one of a range of “enrichment” programs. Others include clicker training for cats, cat obstacle courses, and leash walking.

Reading was introduced as part of a yearly carnival at the shelter, and was so much fun — and so successful at helping shy cats come out of their shells — that it was integrated into the shelter’s summer camp for kids.

“One timid cat became so trusting he climbed onto his reader’s lap and was later adopted,” says Thayer.

Photo credit: Cat Depot
Photo credit: Cat Depot

Now, the shelter has a permanent little reading library chock-full of cat books that anyone can pick up and bring into one of the shelter’s cage-free enclosures.

And they do — though sometimes visitors prefer to BYO.

“Schoolchildren often bring books they need to read for school assignments. Adults bring novels. Some will read the newspaper,” says Thayer.

Photo credit: Arin Greenwood
Photo credit: Arin Greenwood

Thayer would like to see more people read to cats at her shelter — and more shelters encourage this activity.

“It’s a great program allowing the cats to move at their own pace, gain trust, build confidence, make new friends — and hopefully get adopted,” she says.

Photo credit: Cat Depot
Photo credit: Cat Depot

Thayer has some tips, if you want to try reading to shelter cats.

Be animated during the reading, and choose books with pictures, that have interestingly tactile surfaces, or popups.

And here’s our observation: Sometimes a cat may try to eat your book, while you’re reading. We like to think it’s just how they show they’re really engaged.

Photo credit: Arin Greenwood
Photo credit: Arin Greenwood

Find out more about Cat Depot on Facebook. Reach out to your local shelter to see if they allow, or would be willing to allow, visitors to read to cats.

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Arin Greenwood

Arin Greenwood is an animal writer based in St. Petersburg, Florida. Previously, she was animal welfare editor at The Huffington Post. Arin is a former lawyer (J.D. from Columbia Law School, member of the New York Bar), life long animal lover, pit bull advocate, and devoted fan of cats and dogs who run for public office. Her first novel, Tropical Depression -- based on her five-odd, sometimes very odd, years living on a small island near Guam -- was published by teeny indie publisher Back Porch Books in 2011. Her second book, a comic young adult mystery called Save The Enemy, was published by Soho Teen in November 2013. Hello From Dog Island!, Arin's third book, will be published by Soho Teen in 2018. Know a shelter with a great, innovative program? Have another animal story to share? Get in touch at!

1 comment

  1. Nancy Riley says:

    Good Mews cat shelter in Marietta, Georgia, has a reading program for kids. The cats and kids love it!

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