Reading with ragdolls
Having bred pedigree Ragdoll cats since 2004, Lara Armitage is well-placed to recognise the potential therapeutic benefit in spending time with these gentle giants. She has renovated the workshop and cattery spaces at Birkhill House to create a warm and nurturing environment in which to commune with the cats and experience their grace firsthand.
Taking inspiration from countless programmes using dogs, cats and even tortoises as reading companions, Lara has launched ‘Reading with Ragdolls’. There are more than 200 books in the library, suitable for all levels of readers – from starter board books up to novels – alongside a very willing bunch of listeners, who just love story time.
Ragdolls are wonderfully like dogs in terms of their devotion and inclination to follow and attend their humans and yet they are cool, calm and collected in their felineness. They make the perfect reading companions.
‘So many people visiting us over the years have described their experience in our cattery and kitten suite as “therapeutic”. After completing my diploma in animal assisted activity/therapy, I was even more convinced that my Ragdolls, particularly my retiree breeding queens, could be a huge support for reluctant or dyslexic readers, as the cats really enjoy tactile stroking and handling, love to snuggle and enjoy sitting and listening to stories.
‘For children who are lacking in confidence where their reading is concerned, the calm environment and nonjudgmental nature of their audience can be a huge boost as they sit and read aloud in our cozy renovated stables.’
Why at Birkhill House?
Many people have asked if Lara’s Ragdolls can do site visits and the answer is simple: cats are far more comfortable in their own environments. The help and support derived from their presence as reading companions is best delivered on their own turf and, therefore, Lara is keen for the reading programme to remain in-house.
Lara has an extensive library and readers are also welcome to bring their own books. A full list of Lara’s titles is available upon request, as is a list of guidelines for visitors.
Reading with Ragdolls sessions cost £10 per half hour and £15 per hour.