Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Spending some time at the shelter, photographing cats, and dreaming of improvements

I went to the shelter this past weekend because they were holding one of their quarterly volunteer meetings. About a year ago the shelter hired a new director and all kinds of changes have been going on ever since.  Being that I work full time and foster, I don't have a lot of time to go in and just hang out waiting to hear news and this meeting brings me up to speed on what is going on.

The shelter has some incredible plans to expand their operations as well as the spay/neuter clinic they have on-site. I will say that being a shelter in New England has its privileges because there isn't the stray overpopulation that there once was, or is in other regions of the US. When I first started volunteering for this shelter in the 90s they were doing great things with what they had, but as time and attitudes changed their live release rate went from your typical shelter stats of less than 50% for cats to the point where this little open admission county shelter can call itself "no-kill" (and does).

One yr old Prince Charming.
Up for adoption while in recovery
They recently increased the amount of space for the administrative offices, which was long overdue. the expansion is beautiful and something the staff needed. Now that is complete, they are looking to expand the back end of the shelter where humane education and training is located as well as the spay/neuter clinic.

The clinic was added a few years ago and has been tirelessly neutering cats and small dogs for the community. They do low-cost operations for people who qualify financially, which has further pushed down the number of stray cats in the area. They were only limited by the fact that there was one vet and only room for one vet to work. They recently expanded the clinic - taking away part of the storage room where the foster supplies were stored - and added on additional staff. This new shelter expansion will increase the clinic even further and put it right in the front of the building - currently, you have to walk around to almost the back of the building and it can get confusing for clients.

I didn't catch this cat's name.
They also have plans to build a separate building for adoptions so the healthy adoptable animals are in a different building from those who aren't ready. The shelter imports adoptable pets from other shelters, in and out of state; animals that come from out of state need to be in quarantine for several weeks before being available for adoption.

They also have plans to reroute the entrance to the shelter and increase parking, all very positive things as currently you drive up to the administrative offices which is not where the public needs to be.

Capital improvements are very important, and the plans sound wonderfully impressive, but considering I have to walk through the treatment room and isolation to get to fostering supplies, I wondered what plans they would have for that program and asked. It apparently hadn't been a consideration at that point because it flustered them for a minute or two, and they talked about how they were planning on giving access to the current storage area from the back of the building. I can only hope this is something I can drive up to so I don't have to walk all the way around the building to stock up on supplies for a few years while expansions happen.

Luna. Luna is diabetic and has been up for adoption for over a year.
I then asked what plans they had to improve the current cat areas. I will fully admit that our community cat rooms are beautiful and have a lot of catification going on in them, with cat walks, bay windows for sitting in, and even a small catio. But two of the cat adoption areas have not been changed since I started volunteering in the 90s.  This question also seemed to fluster them a bit. It isn't that I don't think that they are ignoring the cats, but well.. cats.  I'm guessing they didn't think anyone would ask.  The director said they were considering new cages with two chambers so the cats didn't have to sit right next to their litter box, and then said that if I had any suggestions for improvements she would be happy to hear them.

Either Bob or Ava.
Either Ava or Bob. Both are white cats that are seven years old. I didn't ask how to tell them apart.
They were surrendered and thus caged together.
This kitty looks grumpy, but was purring at me and rubbing its head against the cage
Bobo, 13 yrs old, REALLY wanted attention
Bobo is very thin, and has that old man feel to him, but he was a LOVE BUG!
Bear was not in the mood to have his photo taken, he became quite grumpy with me.
Maybe Bear would have liked me better if I had read Harry Potter to him.
Fluffy, one-year-old intact female Nebelung. I practically swooned
Fluffy was given up for having a 'bi-polar' personality.
I'm guessing if they had spayed her, that would have stopped.

I know what recommendations I would make for improvements at our shelter, but I am curious, what improvements in shelter care for cats (in general) do you want to see? What improvements in your own shelters have you seen that have impressed you? What have you seen at other shelters? Be specific but don't feel you have to name names if you don't want to.


  1. My human is lousy at interior design, whether it's for humans or cats! She's been in bunches of rescues and shelters, and other than thinking cats would, for the most part, be happier if not caged unless they had to be for health reasons, she's pretty clueless about how to make things better for shelter cats. She hasn't been there herself, but she has seen the virtual tour on Tabby's Place's website, and thinks it is pretty awesome. If anything can be adapted from their ideas, it is bound to be good.

  2. The shelters around here (upstate New York) are moving from the "cats in cages" model to the "cat rooms" model, which is sorely overdue. In my experience, a cat placed in a cage can deteriorate mentally very quickly, and some shelters seem to be a little less concerned with the animals' mental health than maybe they should be. (in my opinion.) And cats who "act out", well, we know what happens to them. :(

    Disease transmission is a problem in many of the shelters around here. Without a separate facility to house sick cats, things like URI get passed around alarmingly, and just putting the sick animals in a separate room is unfortunately NOT effective, especially when there's a bunch of volunteers and visitors going from room to room without using proper sanitation procedures in between. It's super that your shelter is recognizing this problem!

    Sorry, didn't mean to write a book, there. :)

    1. 'books' are totally welcome. I was hoping to spark some conversations :)

      and yes, being stuck in a cage can be so hard on a cat.. like Abby.. but often there isn't an alternative in a shelter environment - like with Abby who needed specific foods and insulin. I'm just so glad we were able to get her out and into a long term foster home.

  3. Love the idea of separate buildings for intake and adoptions. the shelter where mom volunteers has the two cage system for cats - with agreement that they are allowed out in turn to wander around. we can get pictures if you want to see them. we are very glad they have such a great record - and hope they do some improvements you suggest as well.

  4. I haven't visited our local shelter in years, because I would have a crying jag after every visit when I was looking for the two feral kittens that had disappeared from my yard. I never found them at the shelter, and I have refused to go back even though I've read they've redone some of it. I volunteer with TNR rescue groups, and attend adoption events to talk up potential adopters and offer information. I've also volunteered at the nearest low cost spay-and-neuter clinic, and I donate to them as I can. Keep up the good work, Foster Mama!

    1. I can understand that. thank you for what you are able to do, and that you are doing it.

  5. I think an important thing is to have the cats separate from other animals. The one shelter where I used to volunteer had it set up that you had to walk *past the dogs* each time you took a cat out. Not a good idea at all.

  6. My local shelter is nice, but not real impressive compared to others I have seen pictures of on FB. But I hear they are doing some renovations and catification which will help. I need to go visit to check it out. ~Island Cat Mom

  7. I could write a book about this, and it wouldn't be a very happy one. :-( While things have improved over the last few years since a volunteer group partnered with our county animal control, we have so little space. The cats are in cages. It's a small building. It's not inviting to potential adopters. And space. We run out of space and we are not a no-kill shelter. Our county supervisors think the space is adequate. Also, I live in a rural part of Virginia, and so there is a pervading casual attitude toward pet "ownership." Dogs are often tied or chained outside. Cats are "just cats." I realize that not much will change without a change in attitude. That's a main reason I started my blog and use FB as a tool.

  8. Your shelter is doing some great work there. Separate rooms for intake and adoptions sound ideal to me (so many cats at our county shelter come down with upper respiratory). My rescue doesn't have its own facility, so we have to make do with the break room at Petco, which isn't the best. Good luck with the renovations, I am sure your shelter will come up with some great stuff.

  9. I think your ideas are great. I don't really go to shelters, most of my cats just ended up at my door so I have no ideas for improvements. I do know our local shelters have special days with discounted prices for cats that were there longer to help them get adopted.


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