From Shy to Social – Cat Pawsitive Pro Brings Cats Out of Their Shells
By Emily Hall of Kitty Cat Chronicles
Zero has been at SPCA of Brazoria County for almost two years now. He has spent much of that time hiding in a cat cubby to avoid interaction with humans. However, after beginning training in Cat Pawsitive Pro (CPP), the staff and volunteers have discovered that Zero is treat motivated. Now he nose-bumps and lets people pet him!
“In over a year and a half, that was the first time we’ve been able to pet him,” says Team Leader Erica Ledesma.
Sunflower was another shy cat of the shelter. She even had a tag on her kennel that said, “timid, please go slow.” Training in CPP helped to socialize her though. She caught on quickly to the training and began giving head bumps and getting treats.
“We discovered that she was very treat motivated and became very talkative at the front of the cage when we came for training,” says Erica. Now she has been adopted after 6 months in the shelter thanks to CPP!
Team Member Linda Turek says, “I was happy to see her adopted but will miss our training sessions.”
“To be able to have these cats that were shy and stood little chance at adoption find their forever homes, it’s probably the most rewarding thing a rescuer could experience. It shows that many things that people think are impossible can be accomplished!” says Erica.
For Linda, the moment when she truly realized what a difference the training was having for the cats came when Maricela let Linda pick her up and hold her. Maricela had a tendency to be a little “spastic” and wild during training.
“We were pleased when she laid down to let us pet her, but the day she let me pick her up and hold her – that was the biggest surprise of all!” says Linda.
In addition to becoming more socialized and comfortable in their environments, the cats have also learned fun tricks such as eye contact, nose touch, head bump, high five, high 10, sit pretty, and wave. For some of the staff and volunteers, teaching these skills came naturally. They just needed to figure out what worked for each individual cat.
Linda says, “It was exciting and motivating to see what the cats could do!”
The cats were quick to catch on too! “Our staff members jumped in to help when we needed extra hands, and they had cats performing new behaviors within the first 1-2 training sessions!” says Executive Director Beate Damm.
Visitors to the shelter and cat adoption center have been shocked and surprised to see what all these cats can do. When told about the training, visitors tended to be skeptical at first, but they quickly changed their tune once they were able to witness the cats in action.
“I think that brings cats into a new light for people who, say, may be more keen to dogs because they think they are more trainable,” says Erica.
The CPP semester hasn’t all been smooth sailing for SPCA of Brazoria County, though. There were “a lot of set backs between ringworm, parvo, weather issues, and a remodel, but the team leaders were dedicated to the program! They worked through all of the obstacles and made some major progress with their cats and even plan to continue training cats as they come into the shelter,” says the shelter’s Trainer-Mentor Carrie Seay.
“I was excited that we were invited to participate in Cat Pawsitive but only after the program do I realize how truly blessed we were to be a part of this,” says Beate Damm. “Benefits were not limited to only cats, but I see the positive impact on staff as well. It is amazing to see a cat come out of her shell and behave differently after someone spends time and trains with them. Shelter staff need to be able to be a part of this kind of success. It helps them bridge tough situations, and I have also seen the camaraderie grow.”
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!