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Clicking Into High Gear: The 2021 Class of Cat Pawsitive Pro

By The JGP Cat Pawsitive Pro Writing Team: Rachel Loehner of Three Chatty Cats, Janet Blue of The Cat on My Head, Emily Hall of Kitty Cat Chronicles, Melissa Lapierre of Melissa’s Mochas, Mysteries and Meows, Yassar Nakchbendi of Chirpy Cats, and Dawn White of Lola the Rescued Cat

“… it teaches us and the cats more than just tricks – it teaches us about the human-cat bond through deeper communication and connection in transformational and life-saving ways.”

~Alexis Pagoulatos, Executive Director at The
Animal Rescue League of Berks County


The world was undeniably different last year. But for shelter cats, it remained largely the same. They still needed loving care from shelter staff and volunteers, and they still needed to find their forever homes. While The Jackson Galaxy Project’s Cat Pawsitive Pro was put on pause last year, we’re back this semester with our signature clicker-training and positive reinforcement program to help shelter cats all across the country. We can’t wait to help these cats be the best versions of themselves and hopefully move them one step closer to their forever homes.


Let’s meet the 11 shelters participating in this year’s class of Cat Pawsitive Pro (CPP)!

Animal Friends Humane Society

Location: Hamilton, OH
Animal Friends Humane Society Executive Director: Tara Bowser
Cat Pawsitive Pro Team Leaders: Kim Sunberg, Pam Brunner and Cindy Edens
Cat Pawsitive Pro Trainer-Mentor: Tabitha Kucera

From Tara Bowser, Animal Friends Humane Society Executive Director

What does being selected for Cat Pawsitive Pro mean for your shelter?

We could never fully express in words how much it means to us to be selected for the Cat Pawsitive Pro program. Our team at AFHS has long been committed to bettering the lives of shelter cats, and having this opportunity will allow us access to a multitude of tools to help us achieve this goal. For so many years, cats were forced to take a backseat to progressive, lifesaving programs while funding and opportunities poured in for dogs. It’s refreshing to have a program dedicated to recognizing and enriching the lives of shelter cats.

How do you think the program will benefit your cats? Your staff? Your volunteers?

This program will not only directly enrich and better the lives of cats in our care, but it’s also providing the opportunity for our volunteers and staff to step outside of their normal caregiver roles and work together to achieve success in a new, interactive way. Although the program is designed to directly benefit cats, it’s easy to see how it will also add value to the lives of our staff and volunteers by allowing them the opportunity to learn a new skillset and grow in their overall knowledge of animal welfare. It’s a win-win!

From CPP Team Leaders Kim Sunberg, Pam Brunner and Cindy Edens

What are you most looking forward to learning or accomplishing this semester?

We’re excited to learn how best to handle shy and fearful cats in our care to help them thrive and show their true personalities so they can get adopted much more quickly.

Are there specific objectives or goals you are aiming to reach using Cat Pawsitive Pro?

Mainly we would just like to help the cats have a better stay with us. Anything we can do to help these cats be less stressed and find forever homes.

Colorado Animal Rescue

Location:Glenwood Springs, CO
Colorado Animal Rescue Executive Director: Wesley Boyd
Cat Pawsitive Pro Team Leaders: Colleen Hickman and Keira Clark
Cat Pawsitive Pro Trainer-Mentor: Carrie Seay

From Wesley Boyd, Colorado Animal Rescue Executive Director

What does being selected for Cat Pawsitive Pro mean for your shelter?

Being asked to participate in Cat Pawsitive Pro is a true compliment and reward for our dedication to enriching the lives of shelter cats. We’re excited to build enthusiasm around cat training and behavior modification while learning the skills to serve as experts in the future.

How do you think the program will benefit your cats? Your staff? Your volunteers?

Cat Pawsitive Pro will enrich the lives of cats in our care and help them find new homes in a flash. We’re excited to build comradery between our staff and volunteers as we witness the positive impact of their focus and attention.

From CPP Team Leaders Colleen Hickman and Keira Clark

What are you most looking forward to learning or accomplishing this semester?

We are most looking forward to expanding on our current enrichment program and advancing to include training in our cat’s daily activity at the shelter to keep them challenged and living their best lives during their stay with us.

Specifically, we are looking forward to learning behaviors and behavior modifications that will help cats go home faster – everything from the fun stuff like teaching cats to high-five to behavior modification to help the harder to adopt cats that are shy, scared or aggressive.

Are there specific objectives or goals you are aiming to reach using Cat Pawsitive Pro?

Once we complete Cat Pawsitive Pro, we would like to implement a regular training program for all cats at our shelter on a daily basis and get up to par with the daily training our dogs get. This should result in an increase in adoptions and create more marketing opportunities to show off our cats.

Also hoping to open up the scope of post-adoption counseling in our community (via phone calls and emails) to keep cats in homes. We want to be able to best carry through any training done here in the shelter to a cat’s new home for long term success and be able to help with any new behavior that might develop in the home.

We also plan to become a cat behavior training resource and hub for the partner shelters within our network. We will share best practices and documentation for them to implement into their own shelter curriculum. We also envision setting up in-person training seminars throughout the year where other shelter’s cat staff can come and learn from us.

Heaven on Earth Society for Animals

Location:North Hollywood, CA
Heaven on Earth Society for Animals Executive Director: Shannon Asquith
Cat Pawsitive Pro Team Leaders: Carmen Cisneros, Josselyn Moreno, MaryAna DeLosSantos, and Leandra Lawrence
Cat Pawsitive Pro Trainer-Mentor: Samantha Bell

From Shannon Asquith, Heaven on Earth Society for Animals Executive Director

What does being selected for Cat Pawsitive Pro mean for your shelter?

It means we get to save more cats and help more people! Using Cat Pawsitive Pro techniques will help our cats become happier and more confident and thus more adoptable. Being more adoptable means getting into new loving homes more quickly. Especially now during the pandemic, we’ve seen how the cats have helped their people to be less lonely, sad, and depressed. It’s now more important than ever to place as many cats as we can, not just to save the cats but help people too!

How do you think the program will benefit your cats? Your staff? Your volunteers?

The cats will be the big winners from Cat Pawsitive Pro! The techniques will help them to become happier and more confident and possibly placed into new loving homes more quickly. It’s what we all want for the cats. At the same time, the staff and volunteers get to learn Cat Pawsitive Pro techniques to help many more cats, even after the program is officially over. Using Cat Pawsitive Pro can help us to save more cats from area shelters that may have behavioral challenges. Saving more cats will really help motivate staff and volunteers. After all, savings lives is why we do this work!

From CPP Team Leaders Carmen Cisneros, Josselyn Moreno, MaryAna DeLosSantos and Leandra Lawrence

What are you most looking forward to learning or accomplishing this semester?

Collectively, we are most looking forward to the following:

  • How to keep longer term cats active and engaged (and hopefully getting them adopted).
  • Seeing the benefits of enriching their lives through new sources of approach that enrich day-to-day life for cats in our care and build new skills for cats as well as our staff and volunteers, and promotes the human-cat bond, and help improve their adaptability.

Are there specific objectives or goals you are aiming to reach using Cat Pawsitive Pro?

We are hoping to learn how to make behavioral adjustments in the cats in a way that is fun and non-traumatic for them. We have some cats in our care that are very shy so we would love for them to be able to be present comfortably in the room when we enter. Hazel and Crystal are two cats that exhibit this behavior on a regular basis.

Humane Society of Parkersburg

Location: Parkersburg, WV
Humane Society of Parkersburg Executive Director: Gary McIntyre
Cat Pawsitive Pro Team Leaders: Ashlie Ferrell and Rose Wilson
Cat Pawsitive Pro Trainer-Mentor: Sara Russell

From Gary McIntyre, Humane Society of Parkersburg Executive Director

What does being selected for Cat Pawsitive Pro mean for your shelter? 

Having Humane Society of Parkersburg selected for Cat Pawsitive Pro is a huge win for our shelter. We are just completing a remodel of our facility, that includes nearly doubling our space, and we know that this program, with its mission of improving the quality of life for shelter cats, will enhance our cat adoptability while giving them a better quality of life after the shelter. We strongly believe in the principles of the CPP program and have seen so many stories of success in shelters that have completed the training and are anxious to see successes for our community.

How do you think the program will benefit your cats? Your staff? Your volunteers?  

We have a very dedicated “cat crew” at our shelter and these volunteers, along with staff, are always looking for new ways to help our cats find their furever families. Whether they are trying to find the best photo angle to show off beautiful markings or writing some catchy poem to caption a photo and draw people toward a particular cat, they always want the cats to find the right forever home. The staff participating in this training will learn how to best identify those cats who need a little extra attention and, working alongside our volunteers, be able to provide that attention on a consistent basis to help some of our more stressed and less adoptable cats learn to shine so that they can pick out their new family. This program will strengthen the current bond between staff and volunteers and together they will celebrate each milestone of the program.

From CPP Team Leaders Ashlie Ferrell and Rose Wilson

What are you most looking forward to learning or accomplishing this semester?

We are looking forward to learning new techniques working with cats that are not adjusting to shelter life. So many times, cats who cower in their cage, growl or hiss, are overlooked and labeled not adoptable. We are interested in enriching their lives while at the shelter and giving them an opportunity to shine with our help in understanding their needs. 

Are there specific objectives or goals you are aiming to reach using Cat Pawsitive Pro?

Our objectives are to learn as much as we can to help our shelter cats get adopted and to provide guidance to the other volunteers and staff to continue the program with them. The more consistency from the staff and volunteers involved we can provide to our shelter cats, the better opportunity for them to be adopted. Our goal would be to have weekly or biweekly meetings with staff and volunteers to discuss what challenges we have with any shelter cats and create an individual game-plan for each of the cats to work with their socialization and to get them adopted. We hope that with this program will help unify the staff and volunteers to create a shorter length of stay for our shelter cats, while also ensuring we are find the appropriate adoptive homes for their individual needs.

LifeLine Animal Project

LifeLine’s Community Animal Center CPP Team
LifeLine’s DeKalb County Animal Services CPP Team

Location: Atlanta, GA
LifeLine Animal Project CEO: Rebecca Guinn
LifeLine Animal Project COO: Andrea Peterson
Cat Pawsitive Pro Team Leaders: Tracy Thompson and Annie Alder
Cat Pawsitive Pro Trainer-Mentor: Samantha Bell

From Andrea Peterson, LifeLine Animal Project COO

What does being selected for Cat Pawsitive Pro mean for your shelter?

Being selected to participate in the Cat Pawsitive Pro program has been extremely exciting for LifeLine Animal Project. Not only is it great for our teams’ lifesaving efforts to be recognized, but it is incredibly rewarding to know that we can be part of making a difference in the shelter experience and placement of cats that are struggling behaviorally.

How do you think the program will benefit your cats? Your staff? Your volunteers?

This program will help teach our staff and volunteers different ways we can enrich the shelter experience and increase the placement for our struggling cats. Our staff and volunteers are thrilled to see an even greater focus on cats in the shelter and cannot wait to learn new ways to increase the adoptability of some of our more difficult to place cats. They are also excited to learn valuable lessons that they can continue to use in the future, to help all cats that come into LifeLine’s care.

From CPP Team Leaders Annie Alder and Tracy Thompson

What are you most looking forward to learning or accomplishing this semester?

We’re very much looking forward to seeing the benefits of the CPP program for some of our harder-to-place cats, particularly decreasing their length of stay in the shelter. – Annie Alder

We look forward to having the tools to work with these types of cats in the future to help them cope and find homes quicker. – Tracy Thompson

Are there specific objectives or goals you are aiming to reach using Cat Pawsitive Pro?

An important goal for [LifeLine’s] DCAS [location] is to develop a more robust enrichment program for the cats. We also intend to pass along what we learn from the CPP program to our volunteer team, so that they can be more involved with enrichment and training moving forward. – Annie Alder

We look forward to gaining a new perspective on how cats think and cope with stress. This will allow us to hopefully provide a more stimulating environment for our entire cat population. – Tracy Thompson

Orange County Animal Services

Location: Chapel Hill, NC
Orange County Animal Services Director: Bob Marotto
Cat Pawsitive Pro Team Leaders: Tiani Schifano and Jasmine Johnson
Cat Pawsitive Pro Trainer-Mentor: Tabitha Kucera

From Bob Marotto, Orange County Animal Services Director

What does being selected for Cat Pawsitive Pro mean for your shelter?

We’re thrilled and honored to be selected! It affirms all of the work that staff, volunteers and stakeholders have done and are doing with cats in our communities. No doubt the experience will help guide the next steps of our county’s journey with assorted feline friends.

How do you think the program will benefit your cats? Your staff? Your volunteers?

The program will deepen as well as validate the tremendous work already being done by our staff and volunteers. It will also enrich the lives of shy and reluctant cats who are often still treated as either unadoptable or barn cats; and help to elevate the overall place of cats in our communities and our culture. We thus have every reason to believe that Cat Pawsitive Pro will shape our sheltering and care of cats in the next leg of our journey.

From CPP Team Leaders Tiani Schifano and Jasmine Johnson

What are you most looking forward to learning or accomplishing this semester?

We are looking forward to learning how to help more cats with varying personalities get adopted. We have a large number of cats that are super stressed in the shelter environment, and we are excited to be able to learn tools to help those cats get out of the shelter and into loving homes.

Are there specific objectives or goals you are aiming to reach using Cat Pawsitive Pro?

One of the main goals is to be able to place more shy cats in loving homes. We are also looking to enrich them and bring out their personalities.

PAWS Chicago

Location: Chicago, IL
PAWS Chicago Founder and CEO: Paula Fasseas
PAWS Chicago COO: Ashley Towns
Cat Pawsitive Pro Team Leaders: Erin Mayes and Briana Allen
Cat Pawsitive Pro Trainer-Mentor: Lisa Stemcosky

From Ashley Towns, PAWS Chicago Chief Operating Officer

What does being selected for Cat Pawsitive Pro mean for your shelter?

PAWS Chicago being selected for Cat Pawsitive Pro meant increased individual emphasis for our feline friends and more knowledge for our Cat Behavioralist Team and Volunteers! We completed over 4100 adoptions in 2020 and of those, 2126 were cats or kittens. Many of the cats and kittens who arrive at PAWS Chicago require medical care and behavioral assessments. Through Cat Pawsitive Pro, we are able to provide more enrichment and training. We have dedicated volunteers who enjoy working with our Adoption Counselors, Medical Team, and Behavior Team to support treatment plans and master feline behaviors. The program will increase a cat’s engagement with their adopters and offer alternative solutions for our adopters.

How do you think the program will benefit your cats? Your staff? Your volunteers?

Our volunteers will benefit by being a part of a unique program not offered at many shelters. They will gain more experience in positive reinforcement training and collaborate with a team to ensure this program increases adoption retention for cats. The benefit to our cats will be a common language beginning at PAWS which will translate into better behaviors when adopted. Our staff will continue to learn and increase their skill set related to cats and their behaviors. PAWS Chicago is excited to be a part of this program!

From CPP Team Leaders Erin Mayes and Briana Allen

What are you most looking forward to learning or accomplishing this semester?

Learning new positive-reinforcement-based training techniques to help cats with different types of behavior challenges that typically result in longer lengths-of-stay at the shelter. If all of the cats participating ultimately find permanent adoptive homes where they can thrive, we will have accomplished our most important goal.

Are there specific objectives or goals you are aiming to reach using Cat Pawsitive Pro?

I want our team to continue utilizing clicker-training as an important enrichment activity after the semester ends. The end goal would be to eventually extend the training we receive to more of our cat volunteers. An official PAWS Clicker-Training Club is a long-term goal.

Roice-Hurst Humane Society

Location: Grand Junction, CO
Roice-Hurst Humane Society Executive Director: Anna Stout
Cat Pawsitive Pro Team Leaders: Arlena Philipy and Hannah Martin
Cat Pawsitive Pro Trainer-Mentor: Molly DeVoss

From Anna Stout, Roice-Hurst Humane Society Executive Director

What does being selected for Cat Pawsitive Pro mean for your shelter?

Being selected for Cat Pawsitive Pro is a huge honor for our shelter because it underscores the incredible dedication our staff and volunteers have for cats, especially cats that need special attention and dedication to have a chance at life-long love. Our team works tirelessly to meet these cats where they are and serve them with compassion and patience.

How do you think the program will benefit your cats? Your staff? Your volunteers?

The fact we have been selected for this program means that the destinies of countless felines will be indelibly changed. Our staff and volunteers will strengthen skills and learn new strategies for helping cats, and their participation in the program will give them and the shelter well-deserved prestige and recognition for our unique ability to serve the cats most in need in our community.

From CPP Team Leaders Arlena Philipy and Hannah Martin

What are you most looking forward to learning or accomplishing this semester?

Getting more staff member, foster, and our community better educated on Cat Behavior.

Are there specific objectives or goals you are aiming to reach using Cat Pawsitive Pro?

Our specific goal is to offer the community the resources to help keep cats in their home.

The Animal Rescue League of Berks County, Inc.

Location: Birdsboro, PA
The Animal Rescue League of Berks County Executive Director: Alexis Pagoulatos
Cat Pawsitive Pro Team Leaders: Meg Yohn and Hailey Auriemma
Cat Pawsitive Pro Trainer-Mentor: Carrie Seay

From Alexis Pagoulatos, The Animal Rescue League of Berks County Executive Director

What does being selected for Cat Pawsitive Pro mean for your shelter?

Being selected for Cat Pawsitive Pro is an immense honor that we are incredibly proud to be a part of because it leads to so many wonderful outcomes, which has been vital for our evolution into an innovative animal shelter. It means that we will gain advanced skills that will enable us to help in more ways than we ever imagined before. And it teaches us and the cats more than just tricks – it teaches us about the human-cat bond through deeper communication and connection in transformational and life-saving ways.

How do you think the program will benefit your cats? Your staff? Your volunteers?

The Cat Pawsitive Pro program’s benefits to our cats are immense because it helps our more challenged cats find a way to interact more confidently and positively with people and makes the shelter environment less stressful for them so they can put their best paw forward. It provides them with a new paradigm of how to interact with us and their environment, while giving them the structure and positive interactions they need to blossom and form trusting relationships again. Watching cats come out of their shell and engage more has been immensely rewarding for everyone and we think the cats would give their approval if they could!

Our staff is immensely proud to be able to learn the skills to help cats in this manner because nothing makes us happier than getting our shelter animals what they need to thrive to find a loving home. Seeing our cats reach out to adopters to connect with them in new ways that they have learned makes our hearts swell because we know people just need to see what we see in them to fall in love. And we have often found that some of our most difficult cats became some of our easiest once they were taught a way to communicate and connect. Our staff is more engaged and passionate than ever before after seeing the power of this program!

Our volunteers were excited to hear about this program because they knew it meant something new and exciting for the cats who can often be the most vulnerable animals in shelters. And once we are back to normal operations post-COVID, we expect the enthusiasm to grow and for volunteers to feel even more invested in our shelter as they see the Cat Pawsitive magic at work and can be a part of it again. Watching bonds between cats and volunteers develop has been a true joy and we look forward to expanding those opportunities even more in the near future.

From CPP Team Leaders Meg Yohn and Hailey Auriemma

What are you most looking forward to learning or accomplishing this semester?

We are looking forward to gaining more skills to work with more fearful and even aggressive cats to bring them out of their shells and make them more forward-facing. We’ve come a long way, but at a certain level of fear, we hit roadblocks, and would love to learn to help them more effectively.

Are there specific objectives or goals you are aiming to reach using Cat Pawsitive Pro?

We would like to reduce length of stay for the scaredy cats, see less stress and fear. Break away from simple social (treat + petting) sessions and truly have practical tools to bring them forward.

The Humane Society of North Myrtle Beach

Location: North Myrtle Beach, SC
The Humane Society of North Myrtle Beach Executive Director: Tina Hunter
Cat Pawsitive Pro Team Leaders: Rose Pine and Tina Hunter
Cat Pawsitive Pro Trainer-Mentor: Lisa Stemcosky

From Tina Hunter, The Humane Society of North Myrtle Beach Executive Director

What does being selected for Cat Pawsitive Pro mean for your shelter?

We are honored to have been chosen to participate in Cat Pawsitive Pro. We are excited about the opportunity to learn new techniques that will help us improve the quality of life for our shelter cats while they are with us here in the shelter.

How do you think the program will benefit your cats? Your staff? Your volunteers?

We anticipate that the program will be the “secret sauce” that revolutionizes our entire shelter. Our team is energized and ready to learn “all the things” to help us better serve the cats that are here in the shelter by making them more comfortable while they are here. We hope that the program will help us to target those cats that tend to struggle here and help give them the attention that they need to thrive. I think that, if we can see positive change in the cats here, our entire staff and volunteers will be empowered to continue to try harder to make a difference in the lives of these cats.

From CPP Team Leaders Rose Pine and Tina Hunter

What are you most looking forward to learning or accomplishing this semester?

What I am looking forward to with this program is to provide a better quality of life within our facility for cats who are not responding to the care we provide them now. I look forward to working with them to make their time at the shelter a happier place and make them more adoptable.

Are there specific objectives or goals you are aiming to reach using Cat Pawsitive Pro?

Our ultimate goal is to make our shelter cats feel more comfortable while they are here in the shelter and to lower their length of stay by getting them into homes faster.

Williamson County Animal Center

Location: Franklin, TN
Williamson County Animal Center Shelter Director: Ondrea Johnson
Cat Pawsitive Pro Team Leaders: Penny Adams and Katrina Brown
Cat Pawsitive Pro Trainer-Mentor: Sara Russell

From Ondrea Johnson, Williamson County Animal Center Shelter Director

What does being selected for Cat Pawsitive Pro mean for your shelter?

Being selected as a CPP shelter means that we can help cats with confidence. Although we are very fortunate to have many folks on staff and volunteers who are great with cats, this program will allow us to have experts advising us to be sure that we are doing the right thing for every fearful, shy or “spicy” cat that comes through our doors. Helping more cats is always the goal.  But not only that, we will be helping adopters take home not only a pet, but information on how to help that pet. In addition, it means we have yet another resource we can offer our neighboring shelters. Being able to share our resources with other shelters is very important to us.

How do you think the program will benefit your cats? Your staff? Your volunteers?

This program will benefit the cats in obvious ways, becoming more balanced, less fearful, less stressed, etc. I anticipate the program will be as beneficial, if not more, for the staff and volunteers because finding effective ways to help animals is what most of us live for. Helping animals is why most of us are here and knowing that we have tools that can help cats we might not have helped before will be very rewarding. We always feel helpless when there is an animal we can’t reach. I anticipate that we will have many new tools and a strong understanding of those tools by the time we complete the program.

From CPP Team Leaders Penny Adams and Katrina Brown

What are you most looking forward to learning or accomplishing this semester?

That’s a tough question as there’s so many benefits from CPP. Reading or evaluating cat behavior in a shelter environment has always been a bit of the great wild west. Every cat (like every animal) is unique and their challenges could be a result of medical, age, physical, mental, history, or environmental. When there is little or no information about a cat, it can be somewhat tricky to see their true self.

Of course…it’s all subjective based on their experience and history of the person evaluating too. So, that being said…I’m most excited to have standard tools to utilize with evaluating shy or harder to place cats related to cat behavior. We are all about trying to make the best match between owners and pets here at WCAC. Helping these animals stand out on the adoption floor and then providing tools to adopters to continue providing daily enrichment will help form a stronger bond.


Want to keep up with news about the lifesaving work of The Jackson Galaxy Project’s Cat Pawsitive Pro initiative? Follow us on Facebook at The Jackson Galaxy Project. You can learn more about Cat Pawsitive Pro and support our work at www.catpawsitive.org. The Jackson Galaxy Project is a Signature Program of Greater Good Charities.