Prison Cats Win In Canada

Originally published

by Cheshire Kitten on 22 September 2010

in the Special World News section of The Anipal Times

Cat sculpture in a cell in Eastern State Prison in Pennsylvania.

Cats fighting to stay in PRISON?

That’s sure not what I would expect, but something like that happened in Canada this year. Actually, humans fought to keep a cat colony safely at home in a prison in Ontario and succeeded.

The warden of the Bath Institution in the city of Kingston said in January that the colony of cats living there had to clear out of the prison, but the workers and the inmates didn’t want the cats to go, CTV Toronto reported.

Almost 90 percent of the inmates at Bath signed a petition to keep the cats. Some workers in the prison wanted the cats to stay too because the inmates really loved them.

The workers connected with Mary Shaw, a veterinary technician and the director of the Spay Neuter Kingston Initiative. Over several months, Shaw helped dislodge the warden from an adamant position that the cats had to be trapped and removed from the prison grounds. Although it took several months of persuasion to achieve it, as of August 2010 the 17 feral cats are still living in the prison colony and have been neutered, vaccinated and dewormed. They still live in the prison among the inmates who love them.

Shaw told CTV that the prisoners’ tenderness toward the cats changed her view of the men completely. “As we were being shown some of the cats that were hanging around the back of the kitchen, there were men… standing along the fence yelling ‘Save our cats. Save our cats. Save our cats.”

The Bath Institution is not the first prison in North America to take advantage of cat therapists to help inmates develop empathy. Inmates at Indiana State Prison in Michigan City, Indiana, USA, work closely with cats who bring litters of kittens into the prison, according to Diana Partington on the Cat Odyssey blog. Partington visited the prison a few years ago and saw how the inmates lived with the cats and how important taking care of their cats was to the prisoners’ mental health.

Although relations between cats and prison administrators don’t always go this smoothly, other prisons in North American and also in Europe and South Africa also have cat therapy programs for inmates, according to “Prison Cats Change Inmates for the Better” on Suite 101.

Good for that warden in Canada that he responded to the love of the Bath Institution inmates for the feral cats who call the prison home.

Photo originally published by Julie Lyn on Flickr. It is published here under a Creative Commons license.

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