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Shelter Cats

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 
So I've found myself with two free days a week, and I'm going to a local shelter, which is a kill shelter, and playing with the cats. They've got no volunteer program, so that's all I'm allowed to do... I'm looking for advice on anything I can do to help those cats escape being euthanized, and especially anything I *shouldn't* do.

Anyhow, the cats are pretty friendly; but I'm seeing a lot of stressed cats. One timid little cat is in a cage next to a big tom that he's terrified of... lots of hissing, and staying curled in the opposite corner. The tom, an easygoing sort, is clueless that the other cat even hates him. Naturally the shelter people don't want to switch cages because that messes up their paperwork. And there's no place in the cages for the cats to hide... if they're stressed they're right out in the open, and so they stay stressed.

And there are a LOT of little kittens... they've got the best chances, naturally. Most of them are quite playful, but hate being held. Typical kit.

Also, these cats are used to being in their cages... they act frightened--slinking along the floor and hiding--if they're let out to play. If they were a little more used to being out of their cages, they might display that same playfulness they've got when they're secure, when people take them out of their cages...

And the people who visit them!--they seem pretty clueless about cats in general. The two families who came while I was there seemed to decide on a cat mostly based on color, which is really silly because these cats all had different personalities which were visible after minutes of observation... Also, they had no idea how to hold a cat--they'd pick a kitten up under the "armpits" and just let its legs dangle.

So... we have shy cats and clueless people. Anything I can do to connect one with the other?
post #2 of 7
Originally Posted by Callista View Post
And there's no place in the cages for the cats to hide...
cant you propose simply cardboax turned aside? Easy, free, and do works giving the cat a little shelter and needed isolation = possibility to stress down.

You probably cant teach these visitors too much. Many will be angry.
You can give them a paper with tips of some books they use to have in library, and some wellchosen internet-adresses...
post #3 of 7
why dont you design some simple leaflets with basic cat facts/ Q & A /health care/ tips & tricks...links etc...& hand them out to people who come in.

using a upside down cardboard box is a good idea, i can't see why it'd get a "no", as StefanZ said, free & easy!

well done for making the effort to help these innocent animals. i hope you do some lasting good.
post #4 of 7
Welcome to the world of pet education- it can be incredibly frustrating, but rewarding as well.
Understand that no one is born knowing about animals- we all had to learn. They are not bad pet owners- just new ones.

Try and not overwhelm visitors with too much information- it is said that we only hear half of what is said and only remember half of that. Add to that the excitement of going to a shelter- they are just not in a midset to be educated and to retain what you are telling them.

The leaflet idea is a good one- a list of recommended reading and websites is something they can refer to anytime.

As far as socializing- does this shelter have "get acquainted rooms" where you could get some one on one time with each cat? I would take it into a small room and just lie of the floor with teensie treats hidden in my pockets. Just be still and calm and cat curiosity will get to them. And as they learn that exploring gets them treats, they will get braver and braver.
post #5 of 7
Thread Starter 
--How do I get them to agree to let me give the cats little cardboard boxes? If they are hidden the visitors cannot see them... I think the shelter employees will probably not want that. The cats do have raised shelves that they crouch on; they're still fully visible, but it does give them a little privacy. (Their cages are actually rather nice. I could snap a picture next time and post it.)

--There's no private room for getting to know pets... not unless someone lends me an office. Everyone who comes to see the animals (dog or cat) and takes one out of a cage plays with them on the floor of the cat room, which is reasonably clean and has a carpet and a basket of toys.

--Visitors are given a "kitten kit" or "puppy kit" when they take the animal home... cardboard carrier, some food, a toy, and some papers. I haven't taken a close look at them, but I think those papers include pamphlets about cat/dog care.

--I can't belive I haven't thought of treats. I am stopping at Wal-Mart before I go next time... Just as with men, the route to a cat's heart is often through its stomach

--I'm also going to get one of those little teaser toys. The shelter already has one, but it's a big furry thing three times the size of those tiny kittens and it intimidates them! One of the cats was just learning how to play; he'd curiously pat at a jingly ball I gave him, trying to figure out what it was for... he's friendly, but I think he must've been feral-born or not handled much in kittenhood. So yeah, toys are good...
post #6 of 7
Try first petting the scared one with the wand toys. Then, when they warm up to you, you can pet them with your hands. Go slow, move quietly, and make sure families keep their small children in check.

Always approach people as they come in the door. Ask them what type of cat they're interested in. Let them know the myriad of benefits to adopting an adult cat, or a pair of kittens. Make sure you remind them to take as much time as they need to get to know the kitties. Remind them about declawing (how awful it is), spaying/neutering (how important it is) and letting cats outdoors (how dangerous it is).

The way you're describing the shelter makes me assume that they have very little in the way of a healthy gaurantee (if any) and probably don't spay or neuter all the animals before they leave. Try to petition whoever's in charge so that all adopted animals can be spayed or neutered BEFORE they are allowed to go home. I've heard of rescues that will take the cat to the clinic the next day and have the new family pick it up there.

As an adoption counselor, I can tell you that starting a dialouge with EVERYONE from teh second they walk in the door makes WORLDS of difference in how people choose a pet. Use open-ended questions like "What do you plan on doing to train your cat to scratch appropriately" rather than saying "Getting your cat decalwed is evil". Always show empathy. If someone recently lost their cat, reassure them and tellthem that you understand how hard it is. Ask people what they plan on feeding the cat and who plans on taking care of it. There are about a bajillion really good ways to starts a dialouge...just pick some questions!
post #7 of 7
Can you take photos, and make up flyers for the ones you think may be coming up for euthanisation? If you can put some of them up whenever you get a chance at pet stores that would help.

Or even just generic posters with some cute kitty photos saying "please come to blah shelter to adopt a cute kitty like me."
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