Veterinarian Dr. Scott Bainbridge and his client Julia Gallagher, one-time Grade 5 classmates, can take credit for creating a program that helps kids improve their reading skills while providing homeless kittens some extra love and attention.
Inspired by a similar program she heard was offered at an animal shelter in Pennsylvania, Gallagher approached her old friend and pet’s veterinarian Bainbridge about introducing it at his Dundas West Animal Hospital as part of the clinic’s community outreach activities. Intrigued by the idea, Bainbridge launched the Kitty-Litter-a-ture program last month.
The program invites local elementary school students to volunteer their time caring for homeless cats that have been placed up for adoption. After they feed the kittens and clean their litter boxes, the children then pick out a book to read to their new feline friends.
“It’s a win-win, where the kids get to volunteer their time, hone their reading skills and the cats get some extra cuddling and socialization in a program that helps to promote the fact that they are looking for a home,” said Bainbridge, who told The Villager he is always looking for ways to promote his clinic’s cat adoption initiative.
Affiliated with Toronto Cat Rescue, the Dundas West Animal Hospital on Dundas Street West at Roncesvalles Avenue, has found homes for as many as 100 kittens. Currently, there are two kittens, about four months of age, seeking forever homes. Kitty-Litter-a-ture’s goal is to help promote the adoption of homeless cats, teach children the value of responsible pet ownership, and foster a love of reading. So far, children have been clients’ children and students from nearby Howard Park P.S. They come in pairs as reading buddies, accompanied by a parent or guardian.
“The cats look like they’re listening,” quipped Bainbridge. “It’s a great way to socialize the (former) feral cats.”
The cats live in a glass room in the middle of the clinic’s waiting room so clients can see them while they’re waiting for their appointment.
Gallagher, a mother of three who lives in Roncesvalles Village and also Bainbridge’s neighbour, discovered the American program through Facebook and immediately thought of Bainbridge. Her 12-year-old daughter has volunteered at his clinic and wants to be a vet.
“Getting my kids to read has often seemed like a chore, but getting them to snuggle with kittens is never a problem,” she said. “To see kids actually sit down with a book outside of school time seems to be an increasingly rare event, so it’s wonderful to have a program that not only allows for this to happen, but also introduces kids to the idea of volunteering within their community. A love of animals is a great thing to nurture too.”
It just “checks so many boxes – you can’t lose,” she said.
She and Bainbridge have joked they might just start a litter-a-ture program for adults.
The Kitty-Litter-a-ture program currently runs every Tuesday from 4 to 5 p.m. at the Dundas West Animal Hospital, 2160 Dundas St. W., however, because of its popularity may be extended to another day.
For further details, visit www.dundaswestvets.com