This Program Pairs Homeless Cats with Prison Inmates

There’s a cat foster program at the minimum-security Larch Corrections Center near Yacolt, Washington called Cuddly Catz. As part of the program, cats on “death row” are given a second chance by going to live with prison inmates.

Photo via The Columbian

Photo via The Columbian

What makes this a purrfect match? The program was born from the understanding of a shared need between homeless cats and prison inmates: unconditional love. That, and the inmates and cats share another common trait – being kept in captivity away from families and loved ones.

Placing them together means hope for both the cats and the prisoners. The cats get all the attention they need from the inmates, and the inmates are given a daily reminder about compassion and love.

In a story by The Columbian, Cuddly Catz volunteer Marsha Thomas-Carney tells of Princess Natalie, a long-haired black cat who had a history of spraying, scratching and biting for attention. She was almost sent to the pound where she most likely would’ve been euthanized due to her behavior. Instead, Natalie joined the inmates at Larch Corrections Center.

“You can see the behavioral changes in just two weeks,” Thomas-Carney said. Princess Natalie hasn’t sprayed since her arrival at the prison, presumably because she receives all the attention she needs, Walter said.

“Literally, they rescued her from death.”

Photo via The Columbian

Photo via The Columbian

Participating in the Cuddly Catz program involves an extensive screening process. The main priority is to keep the animals safe, so inmate candidates must not have committed a violent crime against animals or humans, are required to be free of infractions at the prison for at least six months and will be at the prison for at least 12 months after the time they receive the cat.

Community volunteers provide food, litter and other supplies, such as cat condos.

Inmates keep a journal of their cat’s progress and, ultimately, are the ones who decide when the cat is ready for adoption, said Kelly Clarke, Cuddly Catz volunteer. Cuddly Catz hopes to be able to list the cats ready for adoption on when the time comes.


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