The Humane Society of North Myrtle Beach Experiences Transformation All Around
By Emily Hall of Kitty Cat Chronicles
To say that the shelter team at the Humane Society of North Myrtle Beach had a great semester of the Cat Pawsitive Pro (CPP) program would be an understatement. They had an AMAZING semester!
Executive Director Tina Hunter reflects on the progress made by not just the cats, but by the shelter staff as well. They had 18 cats go through the program during the semester, and they saw amazing transformations in them all. However, Tina says, “the greatest benefit from the program for us has been the sense of empowerment that we now have as a team.”
Tina goes on to say that she wasn’t surprised to see the change CPP had on the cats in the program. She expected to see the benefits there. What she didn’t expect was “to see the team really rally behind this new ‘task’ that they were expected to add to an already full plate. The morale within the shelter was boosted as our team realized that by using the simple techniques, we really can make a huge difference in the lives of the cats while they are with us.”
Though the shelter staff learned a lot and enjoyed their experience with CPP, it wasn’t all smooth sailing in the beginning. Team Leader Rose Pine reflects on how it wasn’t easy to get all the staff on board with the training at first. However, she adds that “once our team members started to see breakthroughs, everyone was engaged and enthusiastic. It was exciting!”
Those breakthroughs came in different forms for everyone.
Shelter staff and CPP team member Valerie Taylor says her “ah-ha” moment came when she realized how special the one-on-one training time was to the cats. It became obvious to her that the cats looked forward to their sessions. “When they would hear us using the clicker with the other cats, they would jump right up as if saying, ‘Me next! Me Next!’”
For Meaghan Pittman, she knew the program worked when she was working with shelter cat Tigger. “Tigger was always so shut off with us in the beginning. I remember in one session while we were working on capturing slow blink, I scratched her on the head. I stopped, not wanting to force too much love on her too soon, and then she reached out her paws to my hand and licked me. I was so shocked, proud and giddy!”
Lisa Stemcosky, the shelter’s Trainer-Mentor, confirms the positivity and sense of excitement amongst the shelter workers. “Their enthusiasm for the cats was contagious, laughing and smiling with each achievement the cats in the program made.”
Though the benefits of the CPP program are undeniable now, the staff members at the shelter didn’t go into the program expecting it to work as well as it did. Valerie even admits she was skeptical of the program at first. “Now, I’m a true believer and have a much better understanding of cats,” she says. She has realized that with patience and repetitive training, cats who are simply frustrated or scared “can refocus their energy into positive behaviors.”
CPP team member Kelsi Guyer agrees, saying she has gained a better understanding of cats completely. “I have always said that cats just do what they want and can’t be trained. Well…I was wrong!” she says.
Meaghan adds that she learned the value of patience when it comes to cats. She says, “The program has been beneficial in teaching us to start off slowly with the cats, whether it’s just capturing eye contact or just using our hands to target a nose bump. These simple behaviors help them become more comfortable and relaxed in the stressful shelter environment.”
When asked if there were any CPP cats who stood out and were adopted after beginning training, the shelter was excited to share Hermione and Atlas’s stories.
Hermione is Kelsi’s favorite success story. Hermione had been in the shelter for 8 months before beginning training. “She went from ears back, hissing at the back of her cage, to coming to the front of her cage and demanding attention from, not only us, but the public. She was adopted in less than a month after starting the program!” says Kelsi.
Atlas was adopted soon after beginning the CPP program as well. He was a grumpy cat who avoided the shelter staff, scowling in the back of his cage. Meaghan says she thought he’d end up sitting in the shelter for months. She is happy to report she was very wrong! “He transformed so quickly into the biggest love bug! He’s straight out of a romcom movie!” she says.
The shelter continues to receive updates from both Hermione and Atlas’s adopters. “Hermione is relaxed, social and inquisitive in her new home and has really blossomed into an affectionate girl. Atlas is continuing to be the lazy lover boy that we saw here in the shelter,” Tina reports.
With all that the shelter staff members have learned, they plan to continue working to make a difference in the lives of the cats in their care. They recognize the value of the CPP program and the lasting benefits it has had for them. “Our shelter team and operations will forever be changed because of CPP,” says Tina.
Trainer-Mentor Lisa Stemcosky says that “North Myrtle Beach is lucky to have this group of trainers to look out for the wellbeing of their cats.”
We couldn’t agree 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.