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Ellen M. Gifford Sheltering Home for Cats: Cat Enrichment Grant Report

How did this grant help your organization and the pets in your care?

The money was used to purchase enrichment toys (wand toys with feathers or mice), food puzzles (Kong treat balls, slow feeders), tunnels for hiding/play, cardboard scratchers/loungers, cat grass and other items that encourage play and keep the cats engaged and happy.

The cost of operating a shelter sometimes means there is only enough money to spend on essential items. We rely on the kindness and generosity of donors, visitors to the shelter, volunteers and other supporters to make up the difference when it comes to non-essential items like the ones purchased with this grant. Receiving this pet-enrichment grant was crucial in making sure we could purchase items that would keep the cats healthy and encouraged them to interact with volunteers and visitors. Chasing a feather toy, hanging out in a tunnel or rolling a food ball around to get food or treats not only keeps cats happy, but shows potential adopters how they can expect the cat will be in their home (their level of energy). This makes it easier to match that cat with the right adopter, leading to quicker and better adoptions.

How many pets did this grant help?

We typically have a total of 40-50 kittens and cats in our care on a regular basis and this grant benefited all of them.

Please provide a story of one or more specific pets this grant helped.

Angel (first two photos) is 8 1/2 years old and has been at the shelter for six years. She was surrendered by an elderly gentleman who could not care for her any longer and is a bit of a loner. She lives in a part of the shelter where we house some of the quieter and under-socialized cats and generally gets along with the other cats in her room. She is not incredibly active, nor does she respond to treats or to play. She does sometimes like to bat a feather toy, but only when she feels like it!

The volunteers were stumped as to how to get her out into the room more and away from her comfy bed. When Gifford received the Cat Enrichment grant from the Petfinder Foundation, part of the money was used to purchase infinity scratcher lounges and cat-grass kits. Angel’s room has multiple cat-lounge areas with comfy blankets, which is where you would normally see Angel. We brought an infinity scratcher into the room and left for about five minutes and when we came back, Angel was happily scratching and then lounging on the scratcher, as if to say, “okay, this is mine now!”

Later that month, we brought in some of the newly grown cat grass and, as expected, most of the other cats in the room came right up and started munching. We were surprised when Angel got down from her bed and started chomping on the grass (first photo). We had never tried this as a motivator to get her moving, but now use it on a regular basis to entice her away from her bed, and she seems to enjoy it! Now that we know we can attract her attention with the cat grass, we can work on getting her used to petting and attention from volunteers and visitors and eventually get her into a forever home. Meet her:

Scotty (third and fourth photos) is 2 years old and is a volunteer favorite. He’s a gorgeous boy with unusual ears like a Scottish fold. He is sweet, but he has had some behavioral issues in his past and is easily overstimulated. He needs just the right amount of play before he reaches his limit and needs alone time to keep calm. Due to his occasional assertive behavior, he is housed in a separate enclosure in the shelter, but we wanted to make sure he got plenty of attention from volunteers and staff and wanted to find a way to learn to understand Scotty’s body language to be better able to recognize when he was at his limit. Using the enrichment items purchased with the grant, we have used toy wands to meet Scotty’s need for play and cat tunnels for him to hang out in when he has had enough play. They have allowed the shelter to demonstrate what a great cat he truly is and to better notice and understand his behavior so that we can find him the right forever home.

Further Reading