While outcomes have improved dramatically for dogs over the past two decades in animal shelters across the country, there is still a crisis facing cats. Kittens have great outcomes in our region. Healthy, happy adult cats have pretty good outcomes in our region. But adult cats with behavioral issues and feral cats still face nearly universal death in shelters.
Humane Pennsylvania has been attacking this life and death crisis for over 15 years. In the coming weeks we are going to be rolling out very major public expansions of two of our long running programs: Humane Pennsylvania’s Free Roaming Cat Solutions and Working Cat program. Today I want to share our expanded Working Cat program.
Working Cat – Alternative Placement Program
Working Cats are cats which can’t successfully be placed in a traditional home adoption setting but are candidates for non-traditional placements. These cats may have behavioral challenges such as having limited socialization (but not being “fully” feral) or have litter box issues. They are often wonderful cats that just don’t particularly dig being hugged, or dig using the litter box as appropriate.
As a result, their chances of being adopted are virtually zero. Blunt reality: adopters don’t choose cats which will hide in a closet their entire lives and refuse to be petted, nor will they pick a cat which doesn’t use a litter box. We can’t blame people for making a choice to adopt a cat without these issues. With unlimited time and space, we might even be able to rehabilitate many of these cats in our shelter.
But we don’t have unlimited time and space.
That means these cats are almost certainly going to be euthanized in our shelter or some other shelter. But there is an alternative to death and that’s an alternative placement.
Humane Pennsylvania has been partnering with businesses, commercial greenhouses, families with barns, and other locations where cats like this can have an alternative housing placement. These are places where they will be given shelter, supervised, fed, and provided with regular vaccinations and medical care as needed. It just isn’t in a traditional home setting.
These cats provide service in return:
- First, they are often loving pets, if sometimes from a bit of a distance.
- Second, they often help businesses and homeowners control rodent populations. Hence the “Working Cat” moniker.
In the old days the philosophy of shelters was to kill these cats because of the potential they may face living largely outdoor lives. Some shelters still have that philosophy. Humane Pennsylvania has come to grips with a simple reality: A cat can face certain death in a shelter, or it can go into an alternative placement and face a small chance of danger due to being outside. If we could ask the cat, I think I know what the cat would choose. If you ask our staff, I know what they choose. We are here to save lives, not end them when we have a better alternative.
Working Cat alternative adoption placements is an alternative we’ve been practicing quietly for over a decade. We have decided to stop being quiet about this lifesaving option. In fact, we are looking for partners.
If you are interested in learning more about how your family or business can provide an alternative to death to one of these great cats, please reach out to our Life Saving Coordinator, Tawny Kissinger. She can fill you in on how the program works and how you can help us save more lives. We often have healthy, sterilized, vaccinated cats who need your help.
This is not a program for feral and other free roaming cats. We will shortly announce a dramatic expansion of our long running program to help these cats thanks to the amazing $3.1 million Giorgi Family Foundation Grant received by Humane Pennsylvania. Stay tuned!
There are no silver bullets to solve the problems of animals in our community or shelter deaths. These solutions require lots of bite sized approaches to help ever smaller groups of animals which were once deemed unsaveable by animal shelters. That includes our working cats.
I once heard that a journey to save a thousand lives starts by saving one. Or something like that. No wait. I think it was in a fortune cookie. Either way, it’s true.