Friday, April 15, 2016

Blog the Change - Leaving cats be


I mentioned earlier this week that my nickname with foster kitties is often 'grabbyhands'. I have a tendency to want to get all up in a cat's business and make sure they are doing well. With foster kittens, this can be a necessity as far too often they fail to thrive and knowing so as soon as possible can turn things around and save a life. Also, imposing yourself into their day to day lives makes them better companion animals, and more loving and people orientated.

But there are times when being too hands on is actually detrimental to a cat's well-being. This is what I face in my current foster situation, my foster mother is so uncomfortable with my presence that my just being there stresses her out and the more stress she has the harder life is for her. Feral mothers who are overly stressed can abandon their kittens or have their health deteriorate to the point where her life is also in danger. Fostering a pregnant or nursing feral mother cat can be a lesson in restraint. People who foster want to touch and snuggle kittens but it is often in the feral kitties best interest for us to be hands off.

Hands off? with a tushie this cute? 
That takes more strength than I have.

Shelters across the country are finding that a "hands-off" approach to cats might actually be beneficial. This seems counter to all we think we know about rescue as we want to get cats off the street and save them, make sure they are safe and fed. Because shelters often have more cats than they can deal with they are starting to reexamine the entire situation.

One shelter, Lowell Humane Society of Lowell MA, recently did an experiment to see if doing something different might help. They presented their findings at the recent New England Fed Conference that I attended.



They started off with the national statistics that only 2% of pets brought into a shelter are reunited with their families and that cats are 13% more likely to be reunited with their families if not removed from their neighborhood. Since cats can travel half a mile or more while they are outside, you might never meet their true owners.

The shelter put a paper collar on any stray cat and asked the people who wanted to bring them in to put them back where they were found. On the collar, they put the contact information of the shelter so the owner could understand what happened and the shelter has an opportunity to discuss neutering and microchip services. The hope was that this would help the cat as well as the owners and it would keep the cats out of the shelter.  But would it work?

It turns out that it did. 72% of owners called the shelter. The shelter had the opportunity to educate and help these owners keep the cat out of the shelter system.


If a cat turned out to be one of the 28% the person who found it could bring it back in, and then the shelter would do their best to make it one of the 2%, but if not, then they would put the cat up for adoption.  This gives the owner more time to find the cat, as most shelters have a simple three-day hold. I don't know about you, but when my cat went outside, I didn't start worrying about the cat until it didn't come home after 24 hours, which is one-third of the time the cat generally has at a shelter.

There are some obvious exceptions to this practice, such as bad weather, illness, legitimate danger in the environment or the person who wants to bring the cat in doesn't want to invest the time in bringing it back in.

But keeping 72% of your incoming cats out of your shelter with such minimal effort, that is a pretty impressive program! "If a shelter is able to reduce euthanasia by even one cat, that is an achievement to be celebrated" Million Cat Challenge.

If you would like more information on what the Lowell Humane Society did, you can contact them via email or their website or Facebook.

Meanwhile, I'll do my best to ignore my foster kittens.. I fear I am going to fail miserably.


22 comments:

  1. What a great idea! Not only for saving cats, but also for contacting exactly the people who need the services for their cats, whether that's education or financial assistance.

    I'm not fostering the feral mom this year, my neighbor is who had been feeding the colony, but I'm really glad the mom turned out to be just social enough that she's totally okay with the cage and the people.

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  2. WOW! That is amazing! So amazing that I can't believe no one ever thought of it before. This needs to be a common practice everywhere - it would save so many lives, and save a lot of heartache too.

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  3. That is a very interesting approach and one that should be looked at more closely by other shelters. Sounds a little similar to Return to Field, which I'm just now learning about, as I'm working on a post about that with a fellow blogger.

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  4. 72%?? wow....color us surprised. that is a great idea!

    (as for kittens - soon enough they will be moving around and come out on their own....but it may be a long couple of weeks.....)

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  5. What a really good and interesting idea. Although I will be honest I do wonder how people can let there cats out. I thought of you last night, there was this lovely big, fluffy black and white cat sat opposite my house. It was about midnight. It kept looking back and forth, I wondered if it could feel me watching it, my heart went out to the poor thing.

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    1. I so know what you mean. I probably would have opened up the door and put food out for it..

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  6. I am fascinated by this post! What great information...a paper collar? 72%? Fantastic...wonderful! This is news that more folks need to hear. And about the Grabbyhands thing: you are what you are, own it! Ms. Growlypants and you will find a happy medium soon, I know it.

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  7. This is really interesting! I like that they are having such great results with paper collars. Hopefully people will begin to be more educated about caring for their cats and keeping them safe indoors.

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  8. We're in favor of anything that means better, and longer, lives for as many felines as possible (and dogs, too, of course). And we predict you will be a major failure at ignoring, because..... SQUEEEEE ! That tiny tiny face. Built for smoochies.

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  9. Amazing ! That paper collar is such a smart idea ! Purrs

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  10. Wow! What an impressive program. I wonder if other shelters will adopt this idea as well.

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  11. That is definitely an impressive program. I hope it catches on at more places.

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  12. It's so hard to not want to smooch those little furbabies and it's even harder when Mama gets so stressed. I hope once babies are weaned, she'll be much more relaxed. I applaud the work you do to help them. I like the idea of those paper collars. I should have done it with my outside kitty. She always wore a collar with a bell until it was permanently removed and she was crying for food. She would always run from me prior to that. Not sure if she was abandoned but she has been with me for 5 years and is such a sweet kitty.

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  13. We are learning so much about outdoor cats and ways to get them home. The paper collar experiment is fascinating. Hopefully it helped give the people who consider themselves the owners of those free-roaming cats lots of think about, especially about spay/neuter and identification.

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  14. Wow! Those stats are amazing. I hope that become common practice for shelters to do.

    Thank you for joining is for Blog The Change For Animals!

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  15. That is a great program. 72% is pawsome. Truth is that shelters around her don't have to keep cats 3 days; they can off them after one day, unfortunately.

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    1. many states have laws that require shelters to keep pets for a certain amount of time. Dogs are usually kept much longer than cats. it's just sad

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  16. This is such a great idea!

    Purrs xx
    Athena and Marie

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  17. This is very interesting. I would love to see how this figure compares from shelter to shelter. For example, big city vs. small town, urban vs. suburban, etc.

    And yes, it's tough not to cuddle with foster kittens.

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    1. By this figure, I meant the 72% of owners calling.

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  18. Wow - 72%! That is amazing! I'm so glad you shared this information. I guess some of us are too quick to interfere. Thanks for blogging the change for animals.
    Sue
    Be the Change for Animals
    Talking-dogs.com

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  19. You mentioned that cats can travel half a mile or more. One time when I was feeding the ferals, Parker and Inky followed me as I walked back a quarter mile to the cabin where we humans were living at the time. I found the carriers and drove them back to their hay pen where they had just been fed.

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