KHS promotes creative adoption options for cats
Summer 2012, Paw Street Journal magazine
Every morning, Kentucky Humane Society (KHS) President and CEO Lori Redmon and her husband, Kevin, go out to their barn to feed their horses. The first animal to greet them is always Bella, one of the couple's three working cats.
The beautiful Siamese cat trots over to be picked up and loved before Lori and Kevin start their chores. She happily purrs in Lori's arms, then asks to be put down and watches while the couple clean stalls and feed the horses. Bella and her cat companions have shelter, food, water and lots of love; in exchange, they help keep the Redmons' barn free of mice and provide companionship for Lori and for Kevin, who struggles with indoor cat dander.
Bella represents how much has changed in the animal welfare movement over the years.
"Twenty years ago, if you told me I would have outside cats, I would not have believed you," says Lori.
Back when Lori started working in animal welfare as a canine behavior expert, few, if any, animal shelters in the country would place cats in outside environments. The thinking was that inside homes were the only appropriate options. This left cats who were not good candidates for indoor living with limited prospects.
But times are changing for cats in our community—and changing for the better.
"We now recognize that some cats do not do well in homes but thrive in locations like barns, warehouses or garages," says Lori. "As long as they have access to shelter, food, water and companionship, these cats will do very well."
To help these cats, KHS created its Working Cat Program. Candidates for the program are cats who have either lived successfully outside in the past or who are unsocial toward people (feral cats). Some Working Cats are very friendly, while others are shy. Like all KHS pets, they are spayed or neutered and microchipped. There are no adoption fees for Working Cats.
Many of KHS' Working Cats come from Alley Cat Advocates (ACA), a nonprofit Louisville-based agency that uses T-N-R (trap-neuter-return) to manage community, unowned cat populations. While releasing these cats back into their communities is ACA's goal, occasionally this is not possible, and a community cat can then become a candidate for the KHS Working Cat Program.
Jennifer Winterton, a special education consultant for Jefferson County Public Schools, has two KHS Working Cats at her horse stable in southeastern Jefferson County. She had been looking for a while for suitable candidates to join her menagerie of horses, chickens and dogs—and to keep the mouse population in check. Her husband, David, and her grandchildren are allergic to cats, so having indoor cats was not an option.
One day while visiting her local Feeders Supply store, Jennifer saw a flyer about KHS Working Cats.
"I didn't relate this program to the Kentucky Humane Society at first, because I knew that most shelters do not adopt cats outside," she says.
Jennifer contacted KHS Cat Coordinator Jessica Pitts, who recommended two brothers, Vincent and Van Gogh. KHS Working Cats are typically adopted out in bonded pairs.
"Cats are very social and need companionship," says Jessica. "Cats who are adopted out together are more likely to stay in their new environment."
Vincent and Van Gogh are playful brothers who like to romp, explore the hay and cuddle with Jennifer. They joined the Winterton's barn in late June, and Jennifer hopes they prove to be great mousers.
"They fit in so well here," says Jennifer. "They love watching the chickens, and I enjoy having Vinnie and Van Gogh around.
"The Working Cat Program is such a wonderful way to give more cats homes. These two guys really deserved it," she says as she watches the brothers tumbling together in the barn.
Adopting Working Cats
KHS Working Cats are adopted to people looking for cats for their barn, warehouse, garage, garden shed, or other suitable location. Adopters must provide daily food and water and commit to providing any future medical attention.
After a potential adopter's application is approved, a KHS representative brings the cats to their new home along with transition crates, litter and cat food. The cats are crated in a secure location for two to three weeks—long enough for them to become acclimated to their new environment and recognize it as their new home base. Then the cats are released. A KHS representative follows up to ensure the cats adjust well to their new home.
KHS Working Cats are ear-tipped to indicate they are spayed or neutered. They are also microchipped and up-to-date on vaccinations. Adoption fees are waived for Working Cats.
New ordinance helps community cats
Life for community cats in Louisville got better in May 2012, thanks to an ordinance amendment passed by Louisville Metro Council. A community cat is defined as an unowned, free-roaming cat (often called a feral cat).
With the amendment, animal welfare groups can use T-N-R (trap, neuter and return) to manage the community cat population. Until the ordinance change, officers with Louisville Metro Animal Services (LMAS)—the city's public shelter—were required to pick up these free-roaming cats as strays. This amendment will help keep thousands of cats in their communities and out of the shelter.
For community cats, this means they can legally live in stable cat colonies of spayed and neutered cats, where they are often fed and cared for Good Samaritans.
For owned cats, the presence of fewer community cats at area shelters should allow resources to be shifted so that those who truly do need shelter and care (cats surrendered by their owners, the injured and the sick) are able to receive it.
Alley Cat Advocates, the city's leader in T-N-R efforts, shepherded this ordinance change, with help from LMAS and the Kentucky Humane Society.