Cat Reading Programs

Caitlin Dempsey


An orange tabby kitten stands looking at a kid's book that a girl with a pink shirt and blue jeans is reading.

Cat reading programs held in animal shelters are a fun way to help increase cat adoptions while teaching kids more about animals.

What is a cat reading program?

Cat reading programs are set times and days that a cat shelter will invite reading-aged children to come visit an animal shelter and read to cats. Kids can either bring their own books or the shelter may have books on hand that the students can use.

Cat enrichment

Cat reading program have a few goals. The first is to help kittens and cats to socialize with humans. The presence and voices of different friendly faces helps kittens and cats to learn that humans are a positive presence in their lives. Children can read and play with the cats to acclimate them to being around people.

An orange tabby kitten stands looking at a kid's book that a girl with a pink shirt and blue jeans is reading.

In addition, children natural have a higher pitch voice, which is something that cats prefer. It’s why our cats love it when we talk in a baby voice to them.

Cats are also naturally curious. Having a child come in with books is something new to explore. Kittens will soon start climbing and sitting on the books as they engage with their new visitors.

A dark grey tabby kitten sitting on a yellow book that is open.
Books make good resting places for the kittens. Photo: Caitlin Dempsey.

Teaching children about pets

The second goal is to teach young children more about animals and how to interact in a positive way with them. The act of reading can also give children some valuable reading time in a stress-free and fun way that helps them to improve their language skills.

A black kitten being pet while a girl reads a book.
Shelter reading programs help to socialize kittens and get them use to human interactions. Photo: Caitlin Dempsey.

Increasing cat adoption rates

A dark grey tabby cat listens to a girl reading a kid's book. Teal sneakers with pink laces and two fingers keeping the book open are the only parts of the girl that can be seen.
A kitten listens as a girl reads a book to the cat. Photo: Caitlin Dempsey.

The third goal is to increase adoption rates. Cat reading programs typically function as an open house with a twist. This brings in families that might not otherwise consider adopting a cat or kitten.

Participating in a cat reading program requires no commitment to actually adopt a kitten but you might find yourself tempted…

A black and white kitten sits on a blanket with teal, purple, and lavender paw prints.
Sometimes the kittens will sit off to the side to observe the action. Photo: Caitlin Dempsey.

Participating in a cat reading program

Not all animal shelters and humane societies host cat reading programs so the best way to find out is to contact the local animal rescue organizations near you.

Some cat shelters require you to sign up before you can visit so make sure you check first before heading over to the animal shelter.

Most will require that a parent be present with their child to supervise.

Children who come should find a spot in the cattery to sit down and start reading. Cats shouldn’t be picked up as some cats may not want to be held and can scratch. Instead, children should be taught to wait for the cat to come near them and then provide gentle pets as long as the cat’s body language is friendly.

Another fun way to get some kitty time is to visit a cat adopt café.


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About the author
Caitlin Dempsey
Caitlin Dempsey holds both a master's in Geography from UCLA and a Master of Library and Information Science. She is the editor of and an avid researcher of geography and feline topics. A lifelong cat owner, Caitlin currently has three rescued cats: an orange tabby, a gray tabby, and a black cat.