How We Keep Cats From Losing Their Marbles While They Wait for Their Home

August 23rd, 2019

On any given day, we have 250 to 1,000 cats in our custody, with up to 400 housed at Pima Animal Care Center and the rest in foster homes. Our average length of stay for felines is about 11 days, but some kitties wait several months to find their new homes. Here are a few of the ways we keep cats and kittens happy and healthy while they live in our shelter.

  1. Co-housing: Any time we have cats come in together or we find cats that get along, we house them with each other, in groups of two, three, and sometimes even more.
  2. Double-sided kennels: This means the litter box can be on one side and the cat’s bed, food, and water are on another so our cats don’t lay right beside their own waste.
  3. All cats get wet and dry food: This is essential to ensuring every cat is eating plenty of food. Cats often won’t eat when they’re stressed, and wet food is more enticing, so we have far fewer cats growing ill from not eating than we used to when we didn’t feed wet food.
  4. We have treat stations all over the place so that volunteers and the public can give cats treats.
  5. Clicker training with shy cats: Thanks to the training provided by the Jackson Galaxy Cat Pawsitive program, our staff and volunteers know how to clicker train cats. This is fun for kitties and makes them so much more adoptable!
  6. Kids read to our cats: We invite young people to volunteer to read to the cats in our group rooms.
  7. Outdoor ‘barn’ housing for our working cats awaiting placement: For our non-social kitties who don’t go through our shelter-neuter-return program, we have a working cat program that allows them to be adopted as outdoor cats. While they wait, they are housed in a group in our special outdoor enclosure, built for us by the Greater Good Foundation.
  8. Cats are housed in group rooms: Whenever possible, cats are housed in one of our nine group rooms, some with indoor/outdoor spaces. These rooms provide a more natural environment and are great for letting the public visit cats in a low stress setting!
  9. Pass out tons of toys and enrichment: From scratch pads to cat grass to every cat toy under the sun, almost nothing is off limits when it comes to providing in-kennel enrichment. We even have water fountains and puzzle toys in our group rooms!
  10. Hidey holes and everywhere: We have created lots of hiding spaces so cats can feel safe and secure so that they’re able to engage with potential adopters when they feel confident enough.
  11. We have real life rooms: These are set up by our incredible volunteers and they have everything from furniture to rugs to television sets and radios! They make the shelter feel like home for some of our longer stay cats.
  12. We rank each cat with a color dot so more fearful, shy, and ‘spicy’ kitties are handled by volunteers and staff who can help them come out of their shells.
  13. Kitties get beds, blankets, towels and whatever else they need to feel comfy and safe in their kennels.
  14. Give them cardboard boxes. Shelters receive all types of packages and cardboard, instead of recycling them, give them to the cats. Don’t miss the opportunity for a cat in a box photo!
  15. Cats and kittens with minor upper respiratory illnesses and ringworm are still on public view so that we’re able to teach the public how to interact with these kitties without spreading disease (and show how adoptable they are!)
  16. There are no locks on most kennels and the public are invited to interact with our cats. Staff and volunteers are always there to assist!

Do you use any other enrichment methods for the cats in your shelter? If so, share them with us at [email protected]!


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