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Humane Animal Welfare Society of Waukesha County: Cat Enrichment Grant Report

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

The sudden change in environment is the first and largest cause of stress for cats surrendered to HAWS. There is a lack of familiar presence, sudden interactions with unfamiliar people and places, and disruption of routines that are important to animals and humans alike. For cats, this stress can cause them to be reactive and resistant to handling and examination, reducing their potential transfer to the adoption floor and finding a new forever home.

HAWS is dedicated to finding and implementing solutions that make a difference. We believe that providing cats with a calm, consistent, and lower-stress environment, especially in their first 24-48 hours after surrender, can make huge improvements in overall adoptability. The ability to be held, handled, medicated, and assisted in this early time period will increase cats' ability to be viewed and placed in a home.

We have used the Petfinder Foundation Cat Enrichment Grant funds as “seed money” to support important improvements for cat intake and to establish a cat enrichment program at our shelter. We have purchased multiple enrichment items and have most used Feliway pheromone stress-reduction spray, backscratchers to familiarize cats with human contact, Squeeze Up Treats, blankets and towels, heartbeat toys, and cat tent beds.

Accounting report:
Feliway and calming chews: $273.46
Covered cat beds: $197.95
Squeeze Up treats: $52.11
Toys and back/cat scratchers: $431.28
Cat grass: $50.55
TOTAL: $1,005.35

How many pets did this grant help?


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

Too Tall (first photo) is a very special 7-year-old male who was brought into HAWS along with his sisters, Bubbles and Swan, after being abandoned in his apartment home in early August. The new tenants found these sweet babies and quickly packed them up and brought them to HAWS.

Too Tall was the most scared, reactive, and fractious of the group and we knew we needed some quick intervention to help this poor guy feel safe and comfortable again. He took a bit of convincing to leave the safety of his box and enter his kennel, and it was clear this was a very traumatic experience for Too Tall and he needed some help to adapt.

He was given extra Feliway blankets and towels, calming music during his behavior sessions, and a couple of calming soft toys that purr and have heartbeats and warmth to help soothe him.

While his sisters came out of their shells a little faster, Too Tall showed us every day that he was learning how to trust us. Shortly after a week, Too Tall went from hissing and swatting to accepting treats from a Squeeze Up tube and, suddenly, straight out of our hands! Too Tall was telling us he was ready to find his new home, so we moved him up to the adoption floor.

Too Tall continued to do well on the adoption floor and was viewed a couple of times and did so well! Unfortunately, the shelter environment got him sick and he developed a URI. He was moved to our vet-care area and is still currently undergoing treatment.

He doesn’t love his medicine and was feeling a little scared, but with a few adjustments to his kennel — bringing back his favorite purring toy, a soft tented bed, and mixing Squeeze Up treat with his medication — he is starting to get back to normal and will be back up to the adoption floor soon! We’re so looking forward to finding Too Tall his forever home! You can meet Too Tall here.

Swan (second photo) is a beautiful 3-year-old female dilute calico who was brought to HAWS with her sister and brother, Bubbles and Too Tall.

When they first came in, Swan was immediately poking her sweet head out the box looking around and enjoying being pet. Unfortunately, the stress of the shelter took a quick toll on Swan and she became fearful, frustrated, and anxious in her kennel.

Swan obviously wanted and was used to interaction, but didn’t understand how to communicate her needs. She would hiss and vocalize while pressing herself against the kennel doors. Our behavior staff and animal caretakers used a mixture of consistent Feliway sprayed on her kennel blankets and towels, comforting soft toys to calm her, and Squeeze Up treats to motivate her with food and create positive associations with humans.

Within a short few days, and after learning to trust petting from humans via a backscratcher first, Swan came out of her shell and was moved up to the adoption floor. Only a short few days after that, she was adopted to a wonderful home (third photo)!

Bubbles is an adorable and sweet 4-year-old old female who was brought to HAWS with her brother and sister, Swan and Too Tall.

Of the three, Bubbles was the most shy and shut down. She allowed the staff to handle her enough to get her set up in her kennel home, but quickly retreated to her kitty hiding cube and remained there while people were present.

Bubbles allowed human touch, but was still very scared and did not voluntarily come out to greet us and, sadly, stopped eating or drinking much. We knew she would be a sweet kitty who was easily adoptable, but we needed to focus on her health and wellbeing, so she was placed under vet care while we monitored and treated her shelter-induced anorexia.

After a few days of our stimulating her appetite and giving her consistent and more frequent interactions and behavior sessions, she started to come out of her shell and was eating and drinking like normal again! She was moved up to our adoption floor and adopted the very next day!

Ferdinand (fourth photo) is a 4-year-old male domestic short hair found abandoned in an apartment building and brought in by the landlord. Ferdinand was friendly and handleable initially, but shut down during the stray hold, and had fractured teeth upon arrival at the shelter.

Once the stray hold ended, he was moved to the adoption floor, where he allowed handling and petting, but was still exhibiting moderate stress and fear. While he was able to be viewed, he would not voluntarily come up for attention and spent most of his time sitting on top of his kitty casa.

With patience and work from our behavior staff and volunteers, he progressed to lower stress levels and was moved to the cat colony room, where he began actively seeking attention, moving around, seeking out petting, and playing with wand toys. He was adopted on Sept. 28, 2022!

Worm on a String is a 7-year-old male domestic short hair who came in as a stray after being live-trapped. He had moderate stress and fear levels with variable kennel presentation: friendly with some caretakers, stress and fear responses with others.

He was considered for placement as a barn cat, but we decided to work with him after noting that, while he was scared in the kennel and not easily moved, he loved pets and toys and good interactions with humans.

Presentation in viewing rooms furthered his fear behavior, but presentation of a towel and then a cat tent bed helped him feel secure and start interacting with potential adopters. After pets and purring, his adopters fell in love and adopted him on the spot!

Double O Seven is a 6-year-old male domestic short hair who has moderate stress and fear levels, but accepts pets and loves being tucked under Feliway-sprayed blankets, using heartbeat toys, and treats. You can meet Double O Seven here.

Cloudy is an adult male domestic short hair with low to moderate fear and stress. He likes hiding in cat tent beds and being pet while hanging out in the tent beds. Cloudy also likes heartbeat toys and Feliway-sprayed blankets. You can meet Cloudy here.

Further Reading