Inmates living in Santiago Sur, the oldest and most overcrowded prison in Chile, have found comfort in the hundreds of stray cats living on the premises. The cats were first introduced to combat a rat issue at the prison, but officials quickly realized that the inmates were forming special bonds with the cats. Incarcerated men look after the cats, feed them, play with them, build them beds, and treat them like they would a pet at home. The cats have drastically improved the mental health and behavior of inmates as they feel a sense of responsibility to care for the felines, and receive loving affection from the animals in return. Volunteers frequently come to the prison to spay and neuter the cats, as well as provide any necessary veterinary care. Santiago Sur’s cat program has unfolded organically and is a unique way to keep spirits high in an otherwise dark environment.
Image via The New York Times
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