Prison inmates cuddling and caring for fuzzy felines in a prison cell? That seems an unlikely picture. Yet, through an innovative and brand-new program at the Larch Correctional Facility in Washington State, a few very select inmates and a couple of really lucky cats have the opportunity to help each other learn responsibility, compassion and unconditional love. The Larch Correctional Facility is a minimum-security prison in Yacolt, Washington. In cooperation with the local animal shelter, the program includes two cats and four inmates.
By way of the love and rehabilitation for these forgotten felines, the inmates learn how to think about more than just themselves.
The cats come from the shelter and displayed very bad behavior that made them unadoptable. They were raised very poorly as kittens and as a result became extremely distrustful of humans as adult cats. These felines were destined fro euthanasia.
The two cats that are part of the pilot Cuddly Catz program, named Clementine and Princess Natalie, live in a cell that is approximately 12x10 feet, manned with two prison inmates and full of cat perches, scratching posts and food and water bowls. The cats spend all of their time with the inmates. They get daily leashed walks with their cell mates.
A huge inspiration for the inmates to stay on good behavior, is that if they have any infractions against them, their beloved fuzzy feline companions will be taken away from them. The inmates have grown extremely fond of their cats and they will be on their best behavior to keep their companions in the cell with them.
Prison counselor Monique Camacho says that the experience of inmates caring for the cats reinforces the concept of teamwork and responsibility.
Inmates that are able to be part of this transforming Cuddly Catz program are carefully hand picked and must show that they are absolutely capable of not only taking care of the day-to-day responsibilities of taking care of a cat, but also that they can be caring and sympathetic with a cat that is slowly adopting to being touched, brushed, petted and loved by a human being.
The program hopes to add more cats and inmates to the program. As for Princess Natalie and Clementine and the very special and lucky inmates that are part of this program, unconditional love is mutually shared.
Take a moment and watch this heart-warming and endearing short YouTube video interview of the inmates and cats of the Cuddly Catz prison program.