They've got that feline for improved numeracy

Cats on the mats (or even in hats) have been helping young children with literacy for years, but now a charity is suggesting that felines are good for figures too.

Introducing a cat into the learning environment not only keeps the mouse population at bay. According to the UK charity Cats Protection, a feline presence also generates a calm, orderly atmosphere, modifies disruptive behaviour and reduces friction.

It improves class relationships and the general atmosphere, as well as helping children to learn about responsible pet ownership.

The research, carried out by the PetCare Information and Advisory Service in Australia, also found that lower-achievers had a better understanding of mathematical concepts when they were able to relate them to a feline friend.

Cats Protection has also launched its 2002 curriculum-based resource packs aimed at educating children and young people about caring for cats and kittens.

Judy Bernstein, the charity's head of promotions, said: "The curriculum recommends that children learn how to take and share responsibility through the process of looking after animals.

"Engaging with animals can teach pupils how to nurture, care and love all life, thereby learning to respect and relate to peers, parents and teachers. Children acquire a sense of achievement when they help out with the cat.

"By entrusting children with pet-related chores such as feeding, grooming or even cleaning out the litter tray, the young are made to feel that they are contributing something worthwhile, gaining in personal growth and development."

* Teaching packs, which include lesson notes, activity sheets and details about various competitions, can be obtained from Cats Protection by calling 01403 221933.

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