I was just tidying up Petfinder – removing the cats who have been recently adopted. It’s interesting that most of them were from stores, and most of those were at the shelter for weeks, sometimes months before being transferred to a store. Then they were adopted within a week! Why?
We have some great adoption counselors at our offsite Petco locations at Robinson, Bethel Park, North Hills, Waterfront and Waterworks. And that is certainly a good part of the reason. They really get to know the cats they have at the stores and are able to help people zero in on the right cat for their home. Also at some of our more outlying stores we have a different clientele – people who do not want to come into the main shelter and the store cats are the only place to shop, so they’re motivated.
But the ASPCA has an interesting theory that might also explain a good part of why the stores do so well. An article by Dr. Emily Weis, VP Research & Development for the ASPCA tells the whole story, but the bottom line is that research seems to show that if customers have fewer choices, they adopt more cats! How cool is that?
A shelter in Colorado found a spiffy way to cover some windows into their cat areas, blocking 40% of their adoptable cats from view. For two weeks they collected data on the transition rate – the number of people who visited and actually adopted. They found that the transition rate doubled over the rate for the previous two weeks. Research is ongoing and more shelters will be involved in testing in the future, but results look very promising.
At our Cat Adoption Center, visitors are invited by the adoption counselors to look around. By the time they’ve visited half the cages in the main room, read a half dozen kennel papers, their eyeballs start spinning in two different directions. And they still haven’t seen the kitten room or the two colony rooms! If volunteers are there, we step in to help them narrow down their choices. But over and over I hear “I’m just overwhelmed. How do you choose?” It can take a lot of finesse to help people decide and not just go home and “think about it.” I’m sure this is happening at shelters all over the country, especially this time of the year.
At the stores, potential adopters are looking at maybe a dozen cats at most, with some of the stores having fewer. It gives the shy cats a way to be seen right alongside the outgoing cats. It gives an opportunity for one black cat to shine, instead of competing with a dozen black cats at the shelter. A number of the recent adoptions have been black cats.
Even though the numbers are fewer at the stores, the variety is great. The counselors make an effort to select both genders, different colors, sizes, ages and temperaments for their stores.
All we have to do is adopt or return to owner 300 more cats and dogs August through October than we did for the same period last year and we have a chance to win $100K!
Adoption numbers have been climbing over the past decade, so no big deal – right? Wrong! It’s a very big deal and with the economy the way it is, it’s going to be very hard.
Prove me wrong, please!
So what is this Challenge? What are the prizes? In a nutshell:
$100,000 Grand Prize – for the biggest increase in lives saved over and above the qualifying goal of 300.
$25,000 Second Place Award – self-explanatory
$25,000 Community Engagement Award – YOU will have a chance to vote for us in this one the last two weeks in October. Stay tuned!
$20,000 Best in Region Prizes – to the shelter that exceeds the goal the most in the four regions that are not home to the Grand Prize winner.
$5000 Fast Start Grants – to the shelter in each of the five regions that achieves the biggest increase in lives saved in the first month as compared to last year
$1000 We Did It! Grants – crunching all those numbers from 2010 and 2011 is hard work. Someone in those shelters who get it all done gets to go to the Shelter Welfare Administrators Annual Conference in San Francisco.
Remember – the name of this Challenge is Save More Lives. So whether we win a cash prize or not, the animals still win. You’ll be hearing more from me about the Challenge in the weeks ahead.
Learn about all sorts of interesting ways you can support the ARL like having fun at a local happy hour. Find out where you can meet some of our animals in a location near you. You will read numbers that will amaze you. Would you believe that in three days over this past weekend we took in 146 animals, 81 of whom were surrendered by their owners? Geez, and here I thought people signed an Adoption Contract not a Rental Agreement. Silly me.
Did you adopt from us during the month of August? Add your adopted pet to the ASPCA Challenge Gallery!
P.S. Kit Kat was adopted a few days after I posted her. Pure coincidence – or was it all that positive energy again?
The clock moves slowly for a cat like Kit Kat. Totally crushed by the shelter experience, once she was a normal, friendly, fun-loving family cat. Then the unthinkable happened. Her owners moved to a place that doesn’t allow pets. Kit Kat now spends her days hiding in her litter pan, hour after hour. She’s so frightened that she figures those 2 inch high sides might actually protect her or make her invisible.
In order to try to take photos of Kit Kat, I removed her litter pan from her cage. I honestly didn’t know what to expect. What I found was just the sweetest little kitty who broke my heart. Kit Kat wants SO badly to be a normal kitty again. If you gently pet her, after a few minutes one of her back legs starts to go up and she struggles against the complete symbol of kitty trust – the tummy rub! But she gets there halfway, and right now, that’s wonderful.
Kit Kat also has the most amazing “butt button.” Scratch her just forward of her tail and she just can’t resist – the butt goes up and the head goes down in classic kitty surrender. It only lasts a few seconds, but it’s a start.
One day, with luck, Kit Kat will live with a family again. But it’s taking a long time for her to find one. Things are not good for shy kitties like Kit Kat right now in the shelter, not with the sheer numbers who have come through our doors this spring and summer.
The Animal Rescue League took in 776 cats and kittens in May, 712 in June, and, as of the middle of this month, we’re at 395. Almost 2000 cats in less than three months. What’s one frightened cat in the face of all that?
But panning for gold or digging for diamonds isn’t always about the numbers. Sometimes it’s about that one shiny nugget, that one beautiful gem that ends up in your hand. That’s the special one. That’s Kit Kat.
Kit Kat is only 3 years old and she is declawed.
Just in case you didn’t see enough kittens with my last post, here are some little faces that greeted me yesterday at the shelter:
I’ve been saying that a whole lot more than usual this year to people who tell me they “feel bad” because they want to adopt a kitten “when there are so many adults.” Yes, there are more adults than ever before. But there are also more kittens – and kittens, and kittens, and kittens and more kittens. So adopt a kitten – PLEASE!
I don’t know what happened this winter, but the felines were definitely not living a virtuous lifestyle. And 63 days later they find themselves single moms. And about a month after that people are lined up at our intake desk with baskets, cardboard boxes, carriers, shoe boxes, Tupperware containers, and even trash cans full of squirming, mewing little bundles of joy they found under their porch, in their garage, in a window well. In the first 25 days of May, 634 cats and kittens crossed our threshold; 234 were adults and seniors. That means 400 kittens – from blind, unweaned little creatures totally dependent on mom, to two months, to juveniles.
And after the first 25 days in May, they just kept on coming. I don’t have the current count. I’m not sure I want to know what it is. We have at least 350 cats and kittens out in foster care right now. There are about 150 cats and kittens in the Cat Adoption Center all ready to go home. There are over 100 more in the main building in holding areas and isolation. Many of these are all ready to go home, too – they’re just waiting for an open cage in the Cat Adoption Center. And we have dozens at offsite locations such as Petcos at Waterworks, Waterfront, Bethel Park, North Hills and Robinson. We even have cats at Petland in East Liberty, Animal Nature in Regent Square, Platinum Pooch, a grooming salon in Verona. Anywhere we can find a kind-hearted merchant who will take in a cat or two and hopefully find them homes amongst their clientele. In my 14 years of volunteering at the ARL, I’ve never seen it quite this bad.
As one customer said today at the shelter, “When are people going to learn to take better care of their animals?” I don’t know what the answer is, but the theorizing is a topic for another day. Right now, my objective is just to get through another kitten season with my sanity.
Most days I go to the shelter with blinders on. I deliberately try to focus on the adults. But then there they are – the babies with their bright little eyes and hopeful faces, waiting for someone to pick them up and love them. It truly is a miracle how a tiny animal, a totally different species that has only been on this earth for about 10 weeks, can understand that human beings mean safety and comfort. Some of them cry and cry – like a human baby, all they want is to be picked up and held. The minute we do, they quiet down and start purring. What thoughts go through their little brains? How do they know?
Last week we had a kitten affectionately called Screaming Rita. She had pulled all her stitches out after spay surgery, so she was wearing a soft surgical collar, which, of course, she hated. She also hated being alone, and from the minute she was placed in her crate, she started to bleat in a pleading voice that sounded more like a baby goat than a kitten. The next afternoon a young girl of about 12 came in with her mother. Rita’s protests increased in volume and urgency. She knew. Somehow she just knew. A few minutes later, Rita was sleeping soundly on the little girl’s chest and mom was filling out the adoption papers.
There are many sayings about cats and kittens that I love. One of my favorites is ‘Kittens are God’s opinion that life should go on.’ I think my favorite this year and the one that applies best is ‘Blessed are those who love cats, for they shall never be lonely.’
You don’t hear about us on the news like Animal Friends. When we take in 25 cats from Butler like we did this week, you don’t hear pleas to the public for donations. Why? Because we do it every day, every week, every year. But we do need your hands and your heart.
Would you like to not be lonely this summer? Be a foster parent! If you have a spare bedroom, laundry room, bathroom, you can help! Dozens of little miracles are still arriving daily.
If you think you can help, contact our foster coordinator:
Cleda Klingensmith at firstname.lastname@example.org
Phone: 412-661-6452 x231
Direct Dial: 412-345-0343
I irregularly read an interesting and provocative blog called Pet Connection that is written by a number of different professionals of one type or another in the world of animals. They have a variety of opinions about animal related topics and whether you agree with them or not, they make you think.
A couple months ago the topic was “What Are Animal Shelters For?” You might think that’s an easy question to answer, but is it?
Read what Christie Keith has to say and let me know what you think. Once I get past my emotions about some things, I think for the most part she is spot on.
Here’s the link: