Prison Cats

 

(Prison Cat Costume)

No, this post is not about cats that are in prison for committing crimes… they are there for a second chance at life. Many prisons in the United States as well as Canada and the United Kingdom allow some prisoners to own cats. These cats are generally feral, or wild, cats that would be put down at an animal shelter. This privilege of owning a cat is only allowed for prisoners that have a clean behavior record while incarcerated. Psychologists believe that owning a cat helps rehabilitate prisoners and prepares them to enter back into the real world. Studies have shown that inmates who own cats are much more likely to stay out of trouble once released then those who do not get that opportunity. Another interesting thing is the benefit of prisoners owning cats while incarcerated versus dogs. Dogs have always been known as man’s best friend, so why not give the inmates dogs? Besides the low maintenance that comes along with a cat, cats are emotionally independent of their owners and help lower stress levels. Dogs on the other hand bond emotionally with their owners so they tend to react negatively to an owner that is depressed or dealing with anxiety and sometimes make the situation worse. The cat, however, is an animal that will sit there and let you pet it while it quietly purrs. The actual purring of a cat is proven to lower the heart rate of a human as well.

(Cat Roaming the Utah State Prison)

Some of the most famous stories of cats in prison comes from the United States. For instance, the Indiana State Prison had a colony of feral cats living on the ground and many inmates adopted these cats as their own without the permission of the warden. The state saw the situation getting out of hand and decided to take action and remove the feral cats from the property. Once word of this got out to the prisoners, there was an uproar and many inmates protested against it. In order to keep the peace, prison officials decided to embrace the cats, get them fixed, and also hire a veterinarian that could make check-ups and ensure the safety and health of the cats. There are now around 345 cats living in the Indiana State Prison. Another example of prison cats comes from reaction to a natural disaster. Hurricane Katrina was devastating to the Gulf Coast. Many people and animals were displaced by the storm. A women’s prison in Virginia decided to adopt several cats that had survived Hurricane Katrina and assigned them to well-behaved prisoners. This prison has since continued the tradition and helps rescue cats around their general area. Many prisons are adopting this idea that the cats give the prisoners a sense of belonging, love, and compassion. It is proven that the inmates who own cats have much less behavioral issues while both in and out of prison. There are many cat rescues around the countries that now provide cats to inmates in order to help rehabilitate the cats and inmates for a better future.

       

(Prisoner & Cat at Indiana State Prison)  (Women with Hurricane Katrina survivor Cats)

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One Response to Prison Cats

  1. AliWest says:

    Livia,
    Thanks for this interesting post. I am not a cat person… but I can definitely see how they can provide a sense of calm in a stressful situation. I am glad to see detention centers are addressing the emotional needs of the prisoners. I think this will be beneficial for prison employees, prisoners and the general public.
    Ali