13 Jul Reading with cats makes charity carer a lockdown sensation
Children’s story time with cats and kittens in lockdown has made an internet sensation of a Surrey charity worker.
When Haslemere cat carer Laura Williams rediscovered a childhood love for reading during recent social restrictions, she saw a chance to highlight the work done by her Cats Protection colleagues who remain #HereForTheCats.
Laura said: “When we closed to the public my niece and nephews couldn’t visit the cats so I sent them short videos of me reading to the cats. They loved to see how we still care for the cats behind closed doors. That’s when I had the idea of making more videos to show what we do to make the cats as happy and comfortable as possible. They depend on us and we take a lot of pride in our work.”
Since those first clips, Laura has posted more than 25 storytelling videos surrounded by kittens and cats at the Haslemere Adoption Centre, and her online audience continues to grow.
Laura, 38, said: “We’ve been with some of the cats in lockdown for more than eight weeks and we’ve come to know them so well. I think that people recognise that in my films, it’s why they are so appealing. And it’s not just children who enjoy them. A large part of my audience is adults who love cats and enjoy seeing what we do.
“Initially I made the films because it was a good way to spend quality time with the cats, but I realised it was more than that; I was doing it for our volunteers and for the people who continue to support us. I wanted them to see what we have been doing during lockdown, to show that their support matters. It makes a real difference.
“A few times people saw cats in my videos and then got in touch to adopt those specific cats. That was special, to be able to make such a difference for the cats and their new families.”
Cats Protection’s national network of 37 adoption centres and around 230 volunteer-led branches has been closed to the public and admitting only emergency cases, in line with government guidelines. As well as rolling out Hands-Free Homing, which matches cats to eligible new owners and delivers them to the doorstep of their new homes, the Cats Protection team has been working non-stop behind closed doors.
Laura said: “I haven’t seen some colleagues for three months as we’re split into isolated teams, but we all know why we’re here; to do the best we can for the cats. It’s been strange and sometimes quite difficult, but we’ve found new ways to work together. My parents also liked seeing the videos as I wasn’t able to see them for so long.”
Initially Laura read some of her childhood favourites that had been stored in an attic, but she also used her own money to buy second hand books from online retailers. What Laura lacks in professional film making knowledge she makes up for in enthusiasm and commitment.
The natural storyteller said: “I don’t have any experience of filming or even reading to children, but people seem to like the videos so maybe that’s part of the charm. I just read and let the cats get on with being themselves. One day I was reading with kittens and they undid my shoelaces. Kittens being kittens; that was a special day.”
Laura’s films can be found at Cats Protection Haslemere’s Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/HaslemereCP) or YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCtTq_VRHi5fwNp5Mhi_X_Zw).