This World Book Day (2 March), the UK’s leading feline welfare charity is celebrating volunteers and adopters who have been going the extra mile for cats in their care.
Eric Kalnins, 61, reads books to his foster cats from Cats Protection’s Stoke & Newcastle branch.
The retired mental health nurse lives in Stoke-on-Trent and with two cats of his own - Iris and Martha - and has fostered more than 60 cats in his spare bedroom over the past four years.
Eric said: “On retiring I found myself a little lost for meaning to my life and volunteering for Cats Protection has, to large degree, filled that gap. I find it gives me purpose which I think is essential for anybody's wellbeing.
“Reading does seem to get the cats familiar with my voice, and once adjusted they seem to relax. Nothing is more rewarding than a cat feeling 'secure' enough to recline on my lap.
“I am not, historically, the most confident of people, so to speak out loud helps me to express myself more ably and clearly.
“I try to spend two hours a day with my foster cats so once I have fed them, cleaned up any doings, and fussed them, I will grab my Kindle and we are away.”
Eric has recently been reading Charles Dickens’s Barnaby Rudge to his foster cat Fluffy.
Meanwhile, a childminder in Bedfordshire has found the latest feline addition to her household, eight-month-old Baloo, is keen to be part of her daily story time every weekday for the pre-schoolers in her care.
Mum-of-one Helen Joyce, 49, adopted the kitten, who was being fostered by her friend, from Cats Protection Bedford in September.
Helen, who also has cats Twinkle, 12, and Marmalade, eight, said: “Animals are so important for children and I think it’s also important for children to be taught how to be around animals.
“As soon as we brought him home, straight away he wanted to be in the living room with the children. At story time he dumps himself down between the children.
“He’s a very active cat, he runs around all day - the children are better behaved than him.
“But at story time, he loves that quiet and calm. He is like a child, he knows that gentle voice so it’s his time to relax.
“I have been doing this every day since he has arrived and it's just part of his routine now.”
Baloo’s favourite children’s book is The Selfish Crocodile by Faustin Charles.
Joanna Kehoe, a volunteer at Cats Protection’s Harrow Rehoming Centre, regularly reads to her Siamese cats Rollo and Teddy Tiger.
The 48-year-old, who lives in west London with her husband, said: “I utterly adore them and read them a few paragraphs while they are curled up beside me.”
“I read them anything from classics like ‘Rebecca’ and Sherlock Holmes mysteries to children’s stories. I am currently reading one of the Thursday Murder Club Mysteries by Richard Osman which they seem to greatly approve of; looking at me intently for a minute or so, then several paragraphs in, it’s sleepy time.
“I genuinely believe they sense my love of reading and relaxed tone of voice, which in turn relaxes them.”
Cats Protection's central behaviour officer Daniel Warren-Cummings: “Reading can be beneficial to some cats - for example it can help those that come into our care fearful of new people gain confidence and get used to different facets of human behaviour. Friendly and confident cats might also benefit from people reading to them as it’s a form of interaction.
“However, it’s important to remember that particularly nervous cats may find it too overwhelming. If the cat is fearful, it would be advisable to sit away from the cat and not fuss them. Caregivers should always be reading a cat’s body language and responding appropriately.”
Clear signs that your cat is happy include an upright tail, soft eyes, slow blinking, coming towards you for a fuss and rolling onto their back. An anxious cat may hide and it’s important to give them space. A very scared cat might have significantly dilated pupils, ears pinned back and might even swipe at whatever is making them unhappy.
Could you become a volunteer fosterer for Cats Protection and help get cats and kittens for their furever home? No special equipment is needed except a spare room in your house or outdoor space to house a cat pen. Cats Protection will provide the cat pen and all the other support needed including cat food, litter and toys.