2008-07-09 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

Purrr-fect adoptions
by Joanne Anderson

"Mr. & Mrs. Smith, do you take Kitty to have and to hold, to cherish in sickness and in health, for as long as she shall live?" "We do." Purrr-fect cat adoptions like the one above last 'til death do we part. However, most folks select a cat or kitten superficially- usually by coat color which is not a reliable predictor of compatibility. The ASPCA's Meet Your Match - Feline-ality™ suggests that the adopter look deeper into the cat's true colors- purple, green or orange. No, this program is not taken from a Dr. Seuss book. Meet Your Match-Feline-ality™ is based on the idea that all cats (and cat owners) are NOT created equal. The personalities, wants and needs of individuals from both species differ. Replacing your beloved deceased tuxedo with another tuxedo cat is not a guarantee of a match made in heaven. These 2 cats could be as opposite as night and day. The brainchild of Dr. Emily Weiss, certified animal behaviorist for the ASPCA, Meet Your Match (both Canine-ality™ and Feline-ality™) is scientifically designed to increase adoptions, and more important, to make the adoptions stick, by first assessing behavior traits of the cats and desires of the prospective owners, then pairing them up in a fun, color-coded way. Here's how: CAT CRAYOLA: As part of Meet Your Match, the ASPCA (www.aspca.org) method analyzes a series of behaviors in each cat awaiting adoption. It rates Felix on confidence and sociability, which Dr. Weiss notes are independent of each other. Felix is let out in an unfamiliar room. The rater uses a stopwatch to log the amount of social interactions, for example, counting the seconds spent as a lap cat. The tester also monitors cat noises and blink rate- also indicators of sociability. Then the shelter worker initiates some interaction, offering varied toys, a hand, and a hug. Each interest earns Felix some points. Results assign the cat one of 3 color category tags, additionally broken down into 3 subtypes: •"Green" cats are unflappable and adventurous, further classified as the "MVP", "Party Animal" or "Leader of the Band". The "Party Animal" is described as saying "I'm a cat on a mission. PARTY! I love to…explore and test my limits. I'd love to play with you but I can make a toy out of anything: pencils, post-it notes, potatoes. If you're looking for some laughs and someone to liven up the party, think about inviting me." •"Orange" cats- the "Executive", "Sidekick" or "Personal Assistant" put the "good' in good company. * "Purple" felines- the "Private Investigator", "Secret Admirer" or "Love Bug"- are fairly quiet and tend to stay out of trouble.

FINDING YOUR DREAM FELINE: Shelter visitors are asked to fill out a Cat Adopter Survey containing 19 short questions. This provides insight into preferences (eg. "Do you like a cat that is talkative?"), expectations, lifestyle (such as "I would consider my household to be like: a) a library, b) middle of the road 3) a carnival".), and pet expertise. Your results tell the shelter which type cat suits you best:

Kittens for adoption at Babylon Town Shelter Kittens for adoption at Babylon Town Shelter •"Green" adopters are most successful with cats who adapt quickly to new situations. •"Purple" people are perfect for pussycats who need time and TLC to adjust to new surroundings. •"Orange" folks are a good fit with the all around companion cat.

I'LL TAKE BACHELOR CAT#1: Of course, adopters aren't obligated to choose a cat that is their color match, but statistical testing of Feline-ality™ in 5 pilot shelters has shown to be highly successful- 40-45% increase in cat adoptions, and 45-50% decrease in returns and euthanasia. Since the program was launched last fall, many more shelters are beginning to use Dr. Weiss's model. The bond between pet and guardian is crucial. I've heard Dr. Weiss speak about Meet Your Match. She stresses how important it is to cement the relationship between the new animal and owner. Once attached to the pet, people are more apt to forgive or work out small transgressions and address unforeseen health issues; hence, less likely to return the pet to the shelter. Sadly, we live in a disposable society. Pets are too often tossed out like ripped pantyhose. Forming forever friendships is the goal of shelter placements.

MORE CAT TIPS: If your shelter doesn't use a rating system, you can still see beyond color and age when adopting a cat. Take the cat out of the cage. Preferably go to a quiet "Meet N' Greet" room where you can get to know each other. Watch how interested the cat is in you and in distractions. How does he act when you pet him or when someone else enters the room? Final advice- opt for a finished product. Yes, kittens are adorable, but it is harder to tell "que sera". Most adult cats will show their "true hues" now- just like a permanent magic marker. FOR ADOPTION: This week "The Evicted" pose as our featured cats at Babylon Town Shelter (631-643-9270) Lamar St. W. Babylon. A group of 18 cats were peripheral victims of an eviction in May. As a cooperative effort, Last Hope Animal Rescue fostered some and asked Dr. Laura Gay Senk to do dentals and neutering at the shelter. (The procedures happened the same day Ch. 12 came to film the lost Feist heading home to Atlanta.) Dr. Senk also spayed two females at her hospital. The outgoing (Sidekick?) black and white and a gray tabby (shown here) are both boys. The remaining eviction cats are housed in Babylon Shelter's ma­ternity. Out in a lobby cage this kitten wearing an "Adopt Me" vest must have read what I said about choos­ing adults over kittens so he's campaigning for all the youngsters at shelters. Oyster Bay Town Shelter (677-5784) Miller Pl. Syosset also has a huge selection of cats and kittens. Available dogs include: "Sammy" #425- black Shepherd mix, "Goofy" #439-young Point­er/ Lab; "Spud" #536- a yellow Lab mix; "Maggie" #443-Pointer/Heinz 57.

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