Cats and dogs traditionally mix as well as oil and water but Guide Dogs is ensuring its trainees are at home with their feline counterparts.
The charity’s training school in Forfar recently welcomed two 20-week-old kittens which now contribute to its training programme for new dogs.
Having the cats, which came from Cats Protection before Christmas, roaming around the centre ensures that the dogs become familiar with them and are unfazed by their presence.
Following discussions with Cats Protection’s Arbroath and Clackmannanshire branches, a confident pair of kittens called Arthur and Charlie were found to replace cats Belle and Tinker who were formerly at the centre.
Sharyn Wood, co-ordinator for Cats Protection’s Arbroath and Carnoustie branch, said: “It was an unusual request but Arthur and Charlie are such cheeky boys we were sure they would be ideal. As many of us know, dogs and cats can live in harmony if the right training is in place so this is a great idea.”
For the first few weeks of Charlie and Arthur’s stay, the new arrivals will be in a room on their own with an armchair, cosy beds and activity toys.
After a couple of weeks they will be encouraged to explore some of the corridors, and will gradually be given more freedom until staff are confident the cats settled in to their new home.
Senior guide dog trainer Karen Edwards said that so far the two felines seem to be enjoying life at the centre.
She said: “They seem unfazed by dogs barking through the walls so we think they’re going to cope well when they are introduced to dogs, who will be on leads.
“Having the cats living at the training school will allow the dogs to see them regularly and become familiar, non-distracted and calm around them. And of course, the cats are also a friendly and calming influence on the staff as well.”
Anyone wishing to adopt a cat from Cats Protection (dog-friendly or otherwise) can visit www.cats.org.uk or call the charity’s helpline on 03000 121212 to find the nearest branch or adoption centre.
Further information about Guide Dogs is available at www.guidedogs.org.uk