First year students at Scottish Borders College, led by Gert Riddell, Lecturer in Animal Care, visited At Birkhill House one autumnal morning and didn’t want to leave! They had come in order to gather information on cattery construction and materials but left with a picture of what an animal assisted activity/therapy unit can do for morale and self-esteem. ‘It’s a very relaxing space,’ said one student. ‘Lovely building – cosy, homely and quiet,’ said someone else. ‘It gave me a safe feeling,’ reflected another. The general consensus at the end of the visit was that they would like to start every day with cat cuddles.
Lara split the group in two, putting one section into the library area with six of her Ragdoll cats and led the other group into a separate cattery space to explain the choices she had made concerning materials and design. When it was time to change the groups up, she found the initial bunch covered in hair, happily grooming four of the girls, who were perched on laps and in people’s arms. ‘This is a fantastic way to help people with mental health issues,’ said one of the students. The others all smiled and nodded in agreement. They had been won over.
‘I went to look at a cat facilities,’ remarked someone, ‘and came back with a “feel good factor” feeling. Lara has an obvious love of cats and wants to share that with others.’
More collaborative work is planned between the college and At Birkhill House. Watch this space!