This inmate at the Pendleton Correctional Facility and a feline friend. Photo by Pendleton Correctional Facility/Facebook

Watch These Inmates Transform as They Learn How to Care for Shelter Cats and Themselves

Part of our job here at Animals Melt My Heart is to bring you stories that are heartwarming — especially when it comes to stories where animals and people help to heal each other.

A young monk and kitty in Myanmar comforting each other. Photo by Elizabeth Haslam license CC NC 2.0 via Flickr

Today, we have a story for you that covers all the bases.

Cats are nature’s therapists

If you own cats and dogs, you already know they make you feel better. Having one as a friend can help reduce our blood pressure and our stress levels. Watching their adorable antics can put us in a better mood.

In my house, 15 cats and four dogs own me. As you can imagine, there are constant shenanigans going on. I’m always laughing at my cute animals!

My two silly cats
These two, though. Photo courtesy of the author. All rights reserved

It’s heartwarming that in a time when we are dealing with so much terrible news in our lives that there are still stories that can light up our day. Cats can even help to heal the most stigmatized among us — prison inmates.

It’s in that spirit that I’m bringing you this story about a program in Indiana. This idea both improves the lives of shelter cats and prison inmates — it’s truly a win-win for everyone.

The story began in 2015 when the state’s Animal Protection League started an innovative program at the Pendleton Correctional Facility. Called the FORWARD program, they home the shelter cats at the correctional facility. Have the cats on-site gives the inmates a chance to care for them, BoredPanda reports.

Now the cats and the inmates are doing really well

Many shelter cats are often traumatized by their past dealings with humans. Because the cats come from abusive situations, they have learned to be distrustful — meaning they aren’t able to socialize appropriately with humans.

That means that for these kitties, their chances for adoption are very low.

That’s where the inmates come in. Here, prisoners give cats a lot of love and comfort.

The prisoners feed them, clean up after them and groom the kitties. In return, the cats learn to trust humans again. They even built a special playroom for the kitties, replete with scratching posts!

The inmates also benefit

This opportunity gives them the chance to learn how to care for and love a living creature.

“I’ve had offenders tell me when they got an animal, it was the first time they can remember they were allowing themselves to care about something, to love something,” said APL’s director Malea Stringer.

Blinky was quite the sassy girl!

Posted by Pendleton Correctional Facility_FORWARD on Friday, July 6, 2018

Cats provide unconditional love without judging

“It teaches them responsibility, how to interact in a group using non-violent methods to solve problems and gives them the unconditional love of a pet — something many of these inmates have never known,” the APL website says.

There are several animal programs in U.S. prisons across the country, including one established by Purrfect Pals at the Monroe Correctional Complex Special Offender Unit, in Washington. That program has also proved to be quite successful.

“The MCKC program has reduced offender idleness, taught offenders about responsibility and increased their self-esteem,” Purrfect Pals says on its website. “Since the program’s inception, offenders have been motivated to enroll in school, obtain jobs, obey unit rules and improve their hygiene so that they may become MCKC participants. The presence of animals on E Unit has added a new calmness to E Unit’s therapeutic milieu and strengthened its community spirit.”

Undoubtedly the cats help make the situation less stressful for the inmates. Not only that but on many levels, the inmates and the cats have a lot in common — they both need a second chance. And the cats get the chance to learn that not all humans are going to harm them.

It’s really a wonderful situation — share this story with your friends to encourage more prisons to help shelter animals. As you know, they need all the help they can get.

Photo by Pendleton Correctional Facility/Facebook

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