Cats in the animal welfare world can cause employees and volunteers both headaches and happiness. Their unique characters can generate an affection in even the most die hard “dog” people but their unique needs create a challenging set of criteria upon which to safely and healthily house and, ultimately, adopt them out.
To those of you familiar with the PetPoint Journals you will know that it has been demonstrated that the outcome for cats entering into the animal welfare system, as a whole, is not as favorable as the outcome for dogs. The reasons for this disparity are multiple and include a complex mixture of adopter preference, behavioral issues, their prodigious reproductive capabilities and species-specific health issues.
As with many things in life, the key to providing a safe and healthy environment for cats in the animal welfare sector lies with planning, organization and communication. Much has been written by experts in the field about these issues and how best to counter them. Here we look to summarize some of the the key considerations:-
1) Cats at Intake: Cats are very susceptible to illness when they are stressed and their immune systems are compromised. Entry into the animal welfare system is a stressful time for cats and must be managed carefully to ensure that the animal is traumatized as little as possible and that there is no opportunity for cross contamination of other cats within the community. With the virulent nature of Upper Respiratory Tract Infections and other cat specific illnesses that can be transmitted through the air or by contact, disease control and hygiene have to be given the highest level of priority. It is usual for cats entering into a facility to be quarantined for a period of anywhere from 2-14 days, with the length of time dictated by the condition of the cat and each organization’s individual protocol.
2) Individual versus Colony Housing: Once the animal has been declared healthy the decision must be taken about where to house the cat within the organization, pending adoption. A variety of factors including the character of the cat, the number of cats already onsite and the availability of housing determine if the new cat is ultimately housed individually or as part of a group. The decision about whether to house cats individually, in groups or in a combination of the two, varies widely from organization to organization and is dictated by the facilities available and the protocol dictating disease prevention.
3) Ongoing Disease Control: Having placed the animal in either single-cat housing or group housing, the overriding concern of animal welfare organizations is to provide their cats with an environment that will keep it happy and healthy until adopted. Ensuring that cats stay healthy in this type of environment is dependant upon all employees and volunteers adhering to a strict and regular cleaning regimen. Exact details will be organization specific but many ensure compliance by giving employees and volunteers a cleaning checklist to be completed each day.
4) Healthy body – healthy mind: Cats also require the daily stimulation provided by a combination of toys, scratching posts and perches. The provision of boxes and other places to hide is useful for the more shy cats and those that want time alone. Daily human contact with the cats is vital ensuring that they remain comfortable with humans, but it also gives staff the chance to observe the cats to check on their health, general well-being and to assess behavioral trends.
5) Here come the Adopters: Having worked so hard to keep the cats happy, the time comes when they see and meet potential adopters. This interaction carries with it the new potential for the introduction of disease. Organizations vary widely in the level of access given to potential adopters. Anti-bacterial hand cleanser is a staple in almost all animal welfare organizations.
6) Time to go Home: This is the moment of truth and the hope is always that the cat has found its “Forever Home”. Microchipped and registered with 24PetWatch in case it strays and insured under the ShelterCare Gift for all those unknown and unseen health issues, ensures that it has been given a great start on its new life. Thank you.
The Pethealth Family
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