Cats in Prison: Do Prisons Allow Inmates to Have Cats?

Cats in Prison: Do Prisons Allow Inmates to Have Cats?

There are many different programs designed to help inmates in prisons lead more fulfilling lives, potentially even providing them with mental health services to get their mindset back on track. Many prisons have some type of animal care program where inmates can care for, train, or even “adopt” a pet. But most of these programs involve dogs or smaller pets, like hamsters and birds.

If you know someone in prison or you’re an inmate yourself, you might be wondering if cat programs exist. This post has the answer.

Cats in Prison: Can Prisoners Have Cats?

Some prisons do allow cats in some sort of cat program for inmates. However, there is no concrete answer to this question. It honestly just depends on the prison, its rules, and the types of programs it has in place.

So, while some prisons do allow cats through some type of cat program, others do not. Cat programs, for some reason, are simply not as common as dog programs. However, there seem to be more and more cat prison programs popping up across the United States and around the world, so it’s possible that we’ll see more of these in the future.

The Benefits of a Cat Program in Prison

If you’ve stumbled across this page accidentally while looking for other prison information, you might be wondering: Why a cat program for prisoners? Like other types of animal programs, a cat program can give prisoners responsibilities that they otherwise wouldn’t have had. Through these responsibilities, they can learn to care for another living thing and gain a sense of pride and accomplishment.

Having cats nearby can also bring out the sensitive side of inmates who might need a little help showing their emotions. Cats can give inmates something to connect with and love on a deep level. Overall, prisoners might notice reduced stress and anxiety levels and more even moods from their relationships with cats in a prison program.

Plus, cats get to find homes and people to love! The cats in prison programs are typically ones who don’t have consistent homes to go to. They’re usually waiting to be adopted or fostered. Being included in the program allows them to feel the love and affection they crave, too.

How Cat Programs in Prisons Work

Prison programs involving cats may look different in each facility, depending on the type of program offered. Generally, these programs are from another agency, like a cat adoption agency or shelter, that lends cats to inmates to care for.

However, some prisons have their own programs through a partnership with a local shelter or adoption agency. Prisons with in-facility programs might be able to house cats within their facilities for inmates to visit, provide basic health services for, and take care of. Some prisons also have training programs in which inmates can learn from cat trainers how to train the cats in their programs. Other prisons have actual adoption agencies for inmates to adopt cats to love within their facility.

Bang Kwang Central Prison’s Cat Program

Bang Kwang Central Prison in Thailand reportedly has one of the oldest cat programs in any prison around the world. The cats live inside the prison, and the prison’s staff allows its inmates to adopt a cat. Although this prison is known for being a tough one with a high number of death row inmates, it seems that it has a soft spot for cats and the good they can bring to inmates.

The Indiana State Prison Cats Program

One of the most notable prison cat programs is from the Indiana State Prison. This prison is made up of male inmates and has a high population of death row inmates. The cats began coming into the prison many years ago without actually being invited. However, the prison eventually began allowing them to stay.

What started as an accident led to the prison’s adoption program that allows inmates to adopt a cat by applying for one, just like they would in the real world. Each cat has a name and ID badge so that the prison always knows who it belongs to.

Pendleton Correctional Facility

Pendleton Correctional Facility is another Indiana prison that’s all about the felines. This prison partnered with The Animal Protection League to offer a cat program known as Felines and Offenders Rehabilitation with Affection, Reformation and Dedication (FORWARD).

The program is designed to allow inmates to visit and care for the cats as if they were their own. Although the inmates do not individually adopt cats, they can care for cats in a designated cat room. Inmates can play with, groom, and socialize with cats during their allowed hours. Each inmate that wants to be a part of the program must pass an interview process with The Animal Protection League.

Monroe Correctional Complex

Purrfect Pals began a partnership with Monroe Correctional Complex in Washington state to provide foster care for its cats through the prison. The program has been around since 2006, and it seeks to give foster cats and kittens some love and affection while they’re waiting on their forever home.

Of course, inmates also benefit from caring for the cats, showing them love, and gaining new responsibilities and caregiving skills. Purrfect Pals notes that, since beginning the program, participating offenders have built up their self-esteem and gained motivation to reach their goals.

Other Cat Programs for Inmates

There are other cat programs across the United States and worldwide, and more are opening up as prisons realize how popular the programs are in other areas. Here are a few other examples of cat programs in prison:

  • The Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) program works with New Jersey prisons to provide feral cats that end up on prison grounds free or affordable spaying and neutering services. The cats can then go back to the prison to live without the facility worrying about new kittens to care for.
  • The Women Inmate Social Kitty Retreat (WISKR) Program allows women in the South Boise Women’s Correctional Center in Idaho foster cats that need homes.
  • “Catty Shacks” built by the Animal Rescue League of Iowa allow cats to live on prison grounds to get regular care and attention by inmates until they find a home.

Finding a Cat Program for Prisoners

As you can see, a cat program can benefit both cats and inmates. Both receive much-needed attention and affection that can boost physical and mental health. And cats get a whole new set of hands to care for them until they find permanent homes (or, while they make the prison their permanent home!).

If you’re a prisoner or family member looking for a cat program, ask a service coordinator if something is in the works. If not, suggest a program and mention the many benefits it can hold for inmates. Your suggestion might just be what brings a cat program into the prison to boost morale, teach skills, and improve mental health.