By Yasaar Nakchbendi of Chirpy Cats
When cats Jazz and Eloise started Cat Pawsitive Pro (CPP) training at Colorado Animal Rescue (CARE), they responded like any fearful cats would. Rescued from a hoarding situation with over 20 other cats, the team chose to work with these two semi-feral cats, among others, hoping to get them adopted. When the cats started the clicker-training program, they were naturally skeptical and unresponsive, but quickly graduated to not just high-fives, but ringing bells!
At first non-approachable and occasionally aggressive, 2-year-old Jazz soon turned out to be quite the smarty pants thanks to CPP!
Colleen Hickman, team leader at CARE, is thrilled to say that “Jazz became increasingly more confident and curious as we began training. He is at-the-ready at his cubby door when a training session is about to start. Jazz loves to play, is starting to accept pets, and is very talkative, asking for attention and treats as you walk by. He is incredibly smart and has been our fastest learner during CPP training. He has already mastered high-fives like a pro and is close to mastering bell ringing next!”
Eloise, the 2-year-old tortie, just like Jazz, started out the training with “swatty paws” and flat ears. But she has since blossomed into a high-fiving pro, revealing a new confidence with perked up forward ears. She has become very playful and gives chatty little chirps to be pampered and groomed, very different to the shy little tortie wanting to flee in fear. Eloise can now include ringing bells on her resume of CPP activities, which she is currently practicing.
It’s always interesting when staff can observe certain peculiarities about the cats that manifest during CPP training, be it a quirky personality trait or physical attribute they haven’t noticed before.
Colleen loves observing Jazz’s expressive “thinking face” as he learns and processes new information during training. And since Eloise was untouchable before training started, it’s a real treat to discover the incredible softness of her fur, as she now loves to be groomed. The delightful little chirrup she beckons staff with to be petted is golden!
Staff and volunteers were astonished by how quickly the cats’ confidence developed and their readiness to take part in the training sessions. CARE Executive Director Wesley Boyd says, “Everyone is really excited to participate in Cat Pawsitive Pro training and implementation. I love hearing our team laugh and celebrate when a cat gives a high-five!”
Everyone agrees that the cats’ progress has been unparalleled, and staff and volunteers have benefited greatly from the CPP experience. An unmistakable sign the cats are thriving is to witness how their level of engagement with staff has increased. They are less anxious and are eagerly awaiting their training sessions.
“The cats love it!” says Team Leader Keira Clark. “It’s so rewarding to see the cats so engaged. It truly gives them an outlet and something to look forward to during their stay at our shelter. They are all very responsive and we’ve really seen a couple of them blossom.”
And blossom they did! They’ve already had five CPP cat adoptions so far.
“Participating in the evolution of Jazz and Eloise has been especially gratifying. By employing the training practices and principles we are learning, Jazz and Eloise have gone from fearful and shut down, to actively engaging in training sessions. And eagerly asking for more,” says JGP CPP volunteer, Jacky Kaczmarek.
What is equally remarkable is how CPP training has had a positive impact on the staff, too, and is guiding how they interact with the cats.
“I’ve always loved being around cats,” says JGP CPP volunteer, Robb Angier. He points out that Cat Pawsitive Pro training reinforces the idea that cats can learn behaviors that are beneficial to both themselves and the humans and thus instills new meaning to the cat-human bond.
He adds, “I’ve seen confidence grow in the cats as well as myself. Each training session has created positive energy that continues to the next cat-human interaction. I’m grateful to be involved with all who are participating in the program on the JGP CPP Team.”
Carrie Seay, JGP Cat Pawsitive Trainer-Mentor, says, “You can truly tell that CARE staff and volunteers really put their whole self into something they are committed to, and CPP is something they are committed to. Each week the trainers come to the seminars with thoughtful questions, stories that they are excited to share, and support and camaraderie for one another. They help each other with troubleshooting any issues they may be facing by sharing what has worked for them in the past week and they take the information I share and put it into action. Each one of the cats in the program has shown progress and I absolutely love how excited they are about every step of progress no matter how big or small.”
Staff is experiencing firsthand the enormous success that CPP has brought with the increase in happiness, well-being, and adoptions of cats. After the program, they plan to use the tools they have learned to implement an official cat training program to integrate with their current enrichment program. “Having both of these things in place will truly improve the lives of all the cats in our care, and help them find homes even quicker than they already do,” says Colleen.
Jazz’s participation in the CPP program has earned him more than just a participation award. This smarty pants tabby received the biggest reward of all. He was one of the cats adopted and is slowly warming up to his new family in his forever home!
YOU can improve the lives of cats at risk. Donate today to The Jackson Galaxy Project’s Cat Pawsitive Program and transform the places and people that support at-risk pets!