Leveling Up Feline Enrichment with Cat TLC

In its more than five decades of animal welfare work, Dakin has never stopped innovating for the comfort and well-being of animals in need. Those needs never stop changing, prompting new, progressive programs to meet animals where they’re at and set them on their unique journey’s best path.

The sudden changes in shelter operations due to the pandemic had a major impact on the number of people inside the shelter, all of whom felt the weight of this new reality.

There was less time for sensitive cats to adjust to the challenges of the shelter environment and fewer people to spend time with them. Without these consistent positive interactions, cats were much less equipped to manage their stress, especially during the additional transition to an adoptive home.

As restrictions lifted over time and volunteers slowly returned to in-person activities, the need for advanced animal enrichment was palpable. The number of animals, specifically cats and kittens, exploded in the wake of the pandemic and Dakin was handling an unprecedented number of animals.

The Cat TLC Program was born from the urgent need to provide specially targeted enrichment for cats in crisis.

Dakin has a very successful record when it comes to animal enrichment programs. Not only do volunteers mobilize to provide enrichment for sick animals in temporary quarantine during medical treatment, but Dakin became a model shelter for The Jackson Galaxy Project’s Cat Pawsitive Pro, a feline training program that teaches cats behaviors and skills through positive reinforcement, in 2018.

Cat TLC is different. It’s for the cats who come to Dakin with great histories. Cats who are well-adjusted and social at home, but once their lives were turned upside down and they lost their family, routine, and sense of security, they respond to that stress by shutting down, not eating, withdrawing, or lashing out due to fear. Manager of Veterinary Services, Mary Jane McGuire said, “We know these are great cats, just put in a very difficult situation, despite all the environmental stress-reduction processes we have in place for them. We needed a way to support them during this time.”

The reasons for animal surrender vary widely and most often come from people experiencing hardship or crisis. Dakin is here to support people in need with the same compassion and understanding given to the animals we serve.

Many experiences for cats in the shelter are stressful, including having their living spaces cleaned, being near unfamiliar animals, and being handled for medical care. Cat TLC restores a cat’s ability to make choices. They decide if they want to be petted or if they want to engage in play. Sometimes, they prefer to be left alone. We can still be there for them by offering a treat or something stimulating for them to interact with after we leave their space.

Volunteers are trained to look for stress behaviors and identify the cats who will benefit the most from this program. Since we know that all cats benefit from TLC, volunteers are encouraged to work with any cat that they think might need a little extra individual attention.

Cat TLC is a time when we can slow down and be in the moment with that individual cat, listening to what they might be telling us. It’s about meeting them where they’re at and offering that important reassurance and comfort, either through physical enrichment or from a distance, during a difficult period in their lives.

The generous support of animal lovers just like you makes these programs a reality for all animals when they need it most.

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