Anybody else do cat socialization at a shelter? - Cat Forum : Cat Discussion Forums
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post #1 of 5 (permalink) Old 05-10-2014, 01:27 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Dec 2013
Location: Wisconsin
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Anybody else do cat socialization at a shelter?

I'm sorry this is so long.

I started socializing cats about a month ago. At first it was one day a week. Now it's grown to where it's five days a week for an average of two hours a day. I spend 20 minutes with each cat. Based on clean up time between cats I can see five cats a day unless I sit in one of the rooms that has multiple cats. There could be 30 or 40 cats in the adoption areas as a whole.

It's hard to know how to divide my time among the cats. A lot of the new arrivals won't be there long but they want your time too. There's one room where there's 16 cages. I'll walk along and see which cat wants to come out. Usually I don't see a cat twice until I've taken out every other cat that wanted to come out. That room is chaotic in the morning when I'm there. There's somebody cleaning the cages and feeding the cats. There are dogs barking across the hall. A lot of the cats are afraid to come out. There are also 5 cages and a tiny senior cat room in the lobby that's a quieter place to work with cats.

I decided to spend more time with the cats in the lobby, especially the "lifer" cats. One day I spent 40 minutes with the three cats in the senior cat room. I spent half an hour petting one cat with one hand and one cat with the other. They just purred the whole time. One cat went about two feet away to her bed and the purring got softer and softer until she went to sleep.

So now I tend to spend most of my time with the cats that seem to need me the most. I was trying to get a shy cat to come to me when a new one did. He's so sweet. I've taken him out for four days in a row. He never explores the room or wants to play. I can hold him. He likes to rub noses. He just wants to be petted or held the whole time. He seldom moves far enough away that I can't pet him. I feel sorry for him because the lobby noises scare him and he crouches down in his litter box. When I go to put him back in the senior cat room I can feel his heart pound. One time he had flopped over by me and I was petting tummy fur. He wrapped both paws around my wrist. I thought he was going to play bite but he just rubbed his head against the palm of my hand.

I give a treat a day to the shy cats in the lobby. Some of them have started to open up. Riley meows at me whenever he sees me. So on days when I don't take him out I'll at least pet him in his cage for a few minutes. Now Roxy pays some attention to me too. She's in the cage with Riley. I can't reach her to take her out because Riley is always right by the door when I'm around.

There's also a bigger room with more cats. I'm a little nervous there after being bit when I had two cats out at the same time but I can interact with more cats that way. The last time I was there there were three cats that approached me to be petted. (The first one was orange. I swear half of the friendliest cats I see are orange or orange and white. ) The shy cats watch and I hope that they'll approach me eventually so I think I should spend time in that room everyday.

About 40% of the cats will play with the laser light. I should buy a ball of string and then cut lengths of it so I can throw it away after a cat has played with it (to prevent possible diseases from spreading). I tried tin foil balls but only one cat cared about them so far and he was an 8 week old kitten.

Any thoughts or suggestions would be appreciated.
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post #2 of 5 (permalink) Old 05-10-2014, 01:45 PM
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I feel your pain. We have two colonies, one for males and one for females. I don't worry too much about them because they get lots of attention from visitors. We have a cage room with about 21 cages (minimum, sometimes we wheel in portable cages for foster cats that are ready for adoption). The cage room is where you will usually find me. Usually these cats have to be taken out one at a time because they don't do well with other cats or have not been tried in the colony. Some cats need more social time than others. Some are quite happy to sit in their cage and watch me play with other cats. Some need lap time, some play time. If I spend more time on some than on others so be it. I'm lucky to spend 3-4 minutes at a time with a cat between customers coming in! It's a crap shoot who gets what attention and it really, really pains me. Like you I'm there 5-6 days a week for hours at a time.

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post #3 of 5 (permalink) Old 05-12-2014, 07:48 AM Thread Starter
Join Date: Dec 2013
Location: Wisconsin
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I've looked around online. There are some shelters that have their cat socialization guides online. So I'll look at them and continue to try to figure out the best way to use my time at the shelter.
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post #4 of 5 (permalink) Old 05-27-2014, 01:19 PM
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I used to socialize cats and kittens and would concentrate on the shy and (semi-)feral ones. They would be in a pen and I would sit down on a cushion on the floor. I would not try to make contact in any way but just read out loud to them, fairy tales or poetry. I would allow them to deciide to come to me. That way they would learn humans need not be a threat, and they'd get used to human scents and voices.

Due to arthrosis, I can no longer sit down in a pen, but I do miss it a lot.

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post #5 of 5 (permalink) Old 05-27-2014, 02:16 PM
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I know exactly what you mean, Bill. There's never enough time to devote the kind of attention that, for some cats, it's probably necessary for them to receive in order to be good candidates for the average person looking to adopt.

I encounter this problem all the time in deciding which cats to TNR back to their colonies and which to hold on to and socialize or find fosters for. It's why I ended up with Choco-cat: She was brought in by another trapper for a clinic weekend when we had over 50 other cats, mostly kittens, at the centre. All of the adult/older kitten semi-ferals were being put back out--even those that were obviously socializable because the rescues just didn't have the resources to deal with the influx and could only afford to take on the very quickly socializable kittens. I just couldn't stand the thought of Choco-cat going back outside when she was so obviously not feral. In choosing to take Choco-cat in though, I also had to say no to all of the other cats who were of a similar level of sociability. I'd be lying if I said it didn't bother me a bit, especially after the brutal Winter we had, but one person can only do so much.

...which begs the question: are there other volunteers who could share the workload with you? Snuggling kitties? I'm sure the shelter could find people willing to volunteer a couple hours a week to do that. I'm aware that there's a lot more to it than that and that training would, of course, be necessary, but for tame cats that just need some attention? You don't need to be super experienced or receive a ton of training to simply spend time with a friendly, affection-starved kitty.

Proud people-mommy of Galileo, Dante, Cosette, Autumn,
Ramona & Choco-cat (and foster kitty, Poe).

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Last edited by dt8thd; 05-27-2014 at 02:20 PM.
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