By Emily Hall of Kitty Cat Chronicles
“There is a promise behind the clicker!” This is the theme at the SPCA of the Triad for cats who are participating in the Cat Pawsitive Pro (CPP) program! The SPCA of the Triad in Greensboro, North Carolina, is now a couple of months into their training. While most of the staff and volunteers at the shelter didn’t have prior experience with clicker training cats, they have all quickly learned its value.
Lisa Stemcosky, the Trainer-Mentor for the SPCA of the Triad, says, “I’m so excited to be working with the team at SPCA of the Triad. I’m enjoying getting to know the trainers and the cats in their care. It’s going to be an amazing semester. I can’t wait to see the changes that positive reinforcement training will have on these cats.”
In fact, they are already experiencing incredible results! A shining example of one of their Cat Pawsitive Pro cats is long-time resident Sonny. Sonny came to the SPCA in 2013 with his mom. He wasn’t totally feral, but he didn’t want to have much to do with humans. He could usually be found hiding high on top of the kennels, away from humans, and on pretty days, he would hang out on the catio until mealtime.
“While the challenge seemed big and we had years of established behavior to work through, we wanted to see what would make what we knew to be a great cat into an adoptable, chosen cat,” says CPP co-team leader Dianne Lamb.
At first, Sonny wasn’t too thrilled with the idea of training, but he slowly but surely came to look forward to his training sessions. He apparently loves head scratches, which has become his “reward” after the clicker. His personality is showing through more and more, and he now comes when called, is open to eye contact and head scratches, and doesn’t mind being near other humans.
He has even struck up a relationship with a fellow training student, Chrissy.
“Love happens when love and trust is felt! From withdrawn and uninterested, Sonny is our rising star in the Jackson Galaxy Cat Pawsitive Pro program, and so is Chrissy!” says Dianne.
Chrissy has been at the shelter for a couple of years. She has been adopted and returned twice, having gone to two homes where she was ignored and lived under the bed. Her last home labeled her as “feral” when she was returned. After some training, she is now only known as adorable, loving, and friendly. Dianne says, “She now holds her head high and runs to greet people in anticipation of confidently sharing some of her sweet head bumps. No more hiding for this pretty girl and no more living under a bed being ignored.”
While Sonny and Chrissy haven’t been adopted yet, it doesn’t sound like it will be long before they find their forever homes! There is one SPCA kitty who has already lucked out since beginning her CPP training though. Chilli came to the SPCA of the Triad from a kill shelter. She was a skittish cat at first, but after just a few training sessions, she emerged as a flirt who loves attention. When her human walked into the shelter, it was love at first sight. Rather than meeting the skittish girl who first arrived at the shelter, her human met an adorable kitty who rolls on her back and asks for belly rubs!
There’s no denying the fact that the Cat Pawsitive Pro program has benefited the cats of the SPCA of the Triad. The difference the staff and volunteers are seeing in some of these cats is night and day. Brenda Overman, Founder, and President of the SPCA of the Triad, says, “Several volunteers and staff have commented to me how outgoing some of the very timid cats have become. They don’t hide when someone comes into their space, and they are willing to come up to people and seek a scratch on the head, give head bumps and sometimes even do a little attention-getting trick. This has been a win-win for the SPCA of the Triad and our cats, and we are very thankful to Jackson Galaxy and [the Trainer-Mentors] for working so diligently with the SPCA training team and our cats. This program is helping us understand how to apply what we have learned to help cats who are in our program now and how to help those that will enter our program in the future.”
“Behind every fearful look or hidden away kitty, we have happily discovered very adoptable companions who respond to repeated positive reinforcement. Each cat is unique and should be celebrated as such or we as humans miss the gift of them. Cat Pawsitive Pro has taught us to understand how to help build confidence in the kitties, something that will forever have them showing the curious, intelligent, entertaining creatures they came into the world to be,” says Dianne Lamb.
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!