Stars Emerge at Animal Friends Humane Society Through Cat Pawsitive Pro
By Dawn White of Lola the Rescued Cat
As the Cat Pawsitive Pro (CPP) program comes to and end at Animal Friends Humane Society (AFHS) in Hamilton, Ohio, the team is reminiscing about their “ah-ha” moments. We always love hearing teams’ thoughts about the cats that were part of the program. But when everyone interviewed says their ah-ha moment is about the same cat, then we know CPP has made a huge difference in their life.
Cindy Edens, administrative support, says that her first ah-ha moment was when Raven came out of her cage and went onto the cat tree. “She wasn’t ready for a human hand to pet her, but she wanted attention,” she says. “I used her target stick to rub her head.”
One day when Myra Sprinkles, animal care tech, was preparing for a session with Raven, she opened Raven’s cage and grabbed a bag of treats. Raven immediately responded by coming to the front of the cage, with her body language much more relaxed. Sprinkles says she remembers thinking “holey moley, she gets what we’re getting ready to do!” She says it was amazing that Raven really understood.
“When Raven started doing normal cat behaviors [and] then let me pet her, I really knew this program was working,” reports Kim Sunberg, cat care coordinator. Sunberg remembers the other staff members being so overwhelmed at this news because Raven had never done anything like this before. “Raven was a big surprise,” Sunberg says. “We are all just glad she is finally less stressed and able to come up to most people who enter the room she is in now.”
Kiley and Coal are two more success stories for the team. Kiley, a four-year-old tabby, was adopted out from AFHS as a kitten. Described as “spicy” by Edens, Kiley was returned to the shelter a couple of times. This time, however, Kiley was very combative with staff, hissing and swatting at their feet. Kiley’s transformation after participating in the program was amazing. “This time I don’t think she would have made it to adoption without the CPP program and the tools we have gained,” says Edens. AFHS has been told by her adoptive family that Kiley is now a laidback, loving cat.
Coal, the longest resident at AFHS, was just recently adopted. Initially very shy and a little leery of being touched, he would not come up to front of cage. Volunteer Pam Brunner started working with Coal a few weeks after the program began. “He loved treats, so I used this to get him going,” she says. Coal was a fast learner, and it only took two sessions before he was pawing for a treat. After about a month, he started coming out of cage, but would only sniff and explore and then go back in. Brunner kept working with him inside his cage until he started coming to the front asking to be pet. Brunner feels that the “training gave him the courage to let people interact with him.” And we’re happy to report that Coal’s courage helped him find a home!
Executive Director Tara Bowser feels that having staff and volunteers trained on the best way to work with shy and fearful cats has been an asset to AFHS. She also feels the knowledge they have gained will help future cats when they arrive at the shelter. According to Bowser, “the program was [also] a fantastic team building experience” and she highly recommends every shelter to participate.
Sunberg also agrees that learning to work with their shy and fearful cats is one of the shelter’s greatest benefits from CPP. Before CPP the team would just give these cats some time to come around. She feels that now they can work more closely together, using new skills, to help these cats be more comfortable in the shelter.
Throughout the program Sprinkles was reminded, and humbled, that the team really is making a difference in cats’ lives. “We see so much in animal welfare, [and] the bad often outweighs the good.” She has always enjoyed working with the timid cats and believes the program has given her more tools for her toolbelt. Sunberg looks forward to using the tools and techniques she has learned more frequently and feels this is just the start. She is looking forward to helping many more cats in the future.
Trainer-Mentor Tabitha Kucera says it was a pleasure working with the AFHS team throughout the semester. Some of her favorite takeaways are seeing the positive changes in all the animals in their care, building relationships with wonderful people, and teaching the team various behavior modification tools to help the cats in their care that would have previously been euthanized due to behavior or inability to be medicated. Kucera says, “they are doing the best with what they know but then also always learning more!”
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.