| G. Michael Dobbs
SPRINGFIELD – Being cute just isn’t enough.
There is a lot more in the rescue, maintenance and adoption of cats than one might think and Dakin Humane Society is just one of 10 animal shelters across the country that will receive specialized training to help train cats to become better prepared for potential adoption.
The Jackson Galaxy Project (JGP), a Signature Program of GreaterGood.org, has chosen Dakin to receive “Cat Pawsitive Pro,” an on-line program to train shelter employees how to use positive reinforcement to help sheltered cats. The program is supported by the Petco Foundation.
Galaxy is the host of the Animal Planet show, “My Cat from Hell.” He said in a statement, “The genesis of ‘Cat Pawsitive’ stemmed from the simple desire to duplicate the ‘AHA’ moment I had in the early stages of my life with cats as a shelter worker. By utilizing the training concepts that were, to that point, only used for the dogs in our care, not only were the cats stimulated, motivated and energized, but also so was I. That, along with the most important result, lives being saved, was the win-win I envisioned passing on to as many cats and shelters as I possibly could.”
Alanna Ragan, the feline success coordinator at Dakin, explained the program is designed to give shelter workers the skills to help shy, fearful and “over-stimulated” cats become more acclimated to shelter life and to being adopted.
She said “over-stimulated” cats have a “low threshold for petting and other interactions.”
The process of being abandoned or given up for potential adoption by a pet owner is very stressful on cats, Ragan noted, who added that older cats naturally have more problems with the process.
It is the older cats who are more likely to stay longer in a shelter. “Kittens are adopted very quickly,” she said.
The program will include clicker training for cats, which Ragan said surprises people who think that cats are not as trainable as dogs. The clicker training will be positive re-enforcement to teach cats skills that will make them more appealing and adjusted for adoption.
“It’s good for the cats and it’s good for adopter,” Ragan said. With each cats who is adopted the adopters will receive instructions on how to continue the training at home.
“It will strengthen the bond between the cats and the adopter,” Ragan explained.
Right now, Dakin has a “feline weight watchers” program in which volunteers provide low stress handling of cats and make sure the cats are eating properly, Ragan said.
The shelter employees also pay extra attention to “spirit cats,” those felines who come to the shelter typically from homes where they have bonded with a person or two. Ragan explained they are shy and the shelter experience is overwhelming for them.
Sara Russell, a feline behavior expert hand-picked by JGP, will lead the program for the shelter beginning Feb. 21. Throughout the spring, Dakin Humane Society staff and volunteers will participate in weekly seminars with Russell and will have direct access to the entire training team for specialized consultations about the cats in their care.
“Dakin Humane Society could not be more excited about being a part of the Cat Pawsitive Pro program,” Carmine DiCenso, executive director of Dakin Humane Society, said. “The program aligns with so many of our organization’s goals and areas of focus. In particular, decreasing the amount of time animals spend in the shelter before getting adopted, and enriching their lives during their stay at Dakin. The skills that staff and volunteers will acquire from the mentoring of The Jackson Galaxy Project will enhance the lives of our feline residents now and in the future.”