In honor of Shelter Appreciation Week, CATalyst Council is celebrating the shelters that we have worked with on the Catalyst Connection: Forever Homes, Forever Health program.
Catalyst Connection strives to bring together communities in the name of pet health and welfare. Our program connects adopters, shelters, and veterinary practices to ensure newly adopted pets receive a connection to life-long preventive care. The Oregon Humane Society, when piloting the program, saw a sizable number of pets — 2,000 — benefit from the connections that were made across the community.
To learn more about the Catalyst Connection program, visit our website.
From Fearful Cat to New Best Friend
Oregon Humane Society; Summer 2015 Magazine
Dash, a 6 year-old cat with eye-catching black and white fur, was brought to the Oregon Humane Society with high expectations for adoption . “I am hoping for a loving home for Dash. My mother adored Dash and was worried that he wouldn’t find another home when she passed,” the owner’s daughter told OHS.
On paper, Dash seemed similar to thousands of other cats that OHS finds homes for in a matter of days or weeks. He was in good health, litter-box trained, and came from a loving home. But Dash’s demeanor changed dramatically after he arrived at the shelter. Separated from his home and family, he became a fearful and defensive cat who growled and hissed at anyone who approached. Experienced animal care staffers were unable to touch him. Dash was the ideal candidate for a new OHS program designed to help cats cope with the stress of new surroundings.
“The shelter makes some cats extremely terrified and angry,” said Erica Sims, an OHS animal care supervisor with 16 years of experience. “We needed a way to help these cats, otherwise they would never be adopted.”
The program created by Sims intends to replicate the shelter’s success with dogs, helping them overcome what can be traumatic transition to a new environment. The process begins by giving the fearful cat a quiet, private kennel and then proceeds through a series of small steps of increasing human interaction, which can take six weeks or more. The steps include sitting quietly with the cat; offering treats; engaging the cat with toys; and finally, making physical contact. “The key is not to be threatening,” said Sims. “We don’t force anything on the cats; it’s all on their terms.”
The patient approach by Sims’ six-person team is yielding results. Dash, described as “angry, unable to examine,” by medical staff when he arrived in March, has made an amazing transition. During a meeting in May with a stranger, Dash quietly explored a room that was new to him and then repeatedly sought out the stranger’s attention. He purred when petted. Sims was overjoyed—the cat who was once impossible to touch is now displaying the affectionate personality that made his past owner adore his company.