Prison’s ‘Cuddly Catz’ program pairs felons and felines

A prison in Washington State has begun testing out a new program, "Cuddly Catz," matching inmates with cats who have been rescued from shelters.

The Associated Press reports that inmate Joey Contreras, 28, was transferred from a 40 man dorm into a two-person cell in March. But it's the cell's third occupant, "Princess Natalie," who has made the biggest difference in his daily routine.

"Nobody was wanting to adopt her," Contreras said. "We got her and it's been awesome ever since."

Princess Natalie was living in a shelter and scheduled to be put down before she was adopted out to the fledgling program. Like many of her new neighbors, Princess Natalie struggled with social norms: biting and hissing and nearly anyone who came across her path.

Of course, the rescue cats aren't being paired with just anyone. Contreras is being held at the minimum security Larch Correctional Facility and already demonstrated a pre-determined period of good behavior before being given the opportunity to pair with the six-year-old cat. And if the prisoners don't continue to stay in line, they will lose their cat privileges and be returned to the general prison population.

The reported goal of the program is to give the prisoners some positive responsibility that will hopefully help transition them during their eventual integration back civil society.

"In prison, they tend to think about No. 1," prison counselor Monique Camacho said. "Now they have to look out, care for and have responsibility for something else."

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