Maybe it is their generally aloof nature, independence streak or somewhat surly expression that gives cats the reputation for not wanting to listen.

But apparently they do like to hear a good story.

The Pennsylvania SPCA has launched a new summer reading program that will pair gregarious grade schoolers with friendly felines and is aptly named "Cat Tales."

The program will run every Tuesday from July 5 to August 30 between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. at the shelter located at 350 E. Erie Ave., in North Philadelphia.

Reading to therapy dog programs have been around for a while. The shelter tested out the reading with cats this spring with help from students at Agora Cyber Charter School, said Mandy Hood, humane education and outreach manager for the shelter.

"We were amazed at how the cats responded," said Hood.

With all the cat themed books you would think Cat in the Hat, Puss in Boots, Dewey the Library Cat, or Skippyjon Jones: Up and Down would have been popular choices to read. Not so.

It was Walter the Farting Dog.

"They like it," Hood, said of the young readers. "They crack up."

Actually, it is the child's voice that mesmerizes the cats. They encourage the children to talk in a sweet, gentle and respectful tone, she said.

Cats "swoon over it," Hood said."You can read a magazine in there and as long as you use the right voice [the cats] are happy."

It even works to draw out the more shy kitties.

Well, that and a pile of cat snacks.

"They are showered with treats and they love it," Hood said.

The children, in third through eighth grades, will spend 30 minutes reading to about four or five adoptable felines.

"It helps the cats become use to tiny people," Hood. With the extra socialization, the cats become more adoptable, she said.

It also helps the kids with reading skills and confidence.

"It is just them and the cat, no one is there to judge them," Hood said.

A retired school principal, early childhood educators and literary and library volunteers are on hand to help.

"I feel like we have the dream team of volunteers running the program," Hood said.

Participants for the PSPCA program are urged to sign up in advance and can email education@pspca.org, call 267-463-2329 or fill out an online form here.

215-854-4908

@MariSchaefer