Mitzi’s Story & International Cat Care’s new Cat Friendly Homing Programme
A tale of hope by Vicky Halls
(Cat Behaviour Counsellor, Author and Cat Friendly Homing co-developer)
The Bermuda SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) has a shelter in a quiet location on the small island of Bermuda in the North Atlantic Ocean. People visit the shelter daily to see the animals looking for homes. For potential adopters of new feline friends, Mitzi always came as a bit of a surprise.
Mitzi lived with 30 or more other cats in a brightly coloured communal room, all of them looking for their forever homes. The staff and volunteers who cared for Mitzi couldn’t quite remember how long she had been there, but it was definitely several years. She had seen hundreds of cats come and go in that time. In the communal room where she spent her days some of the cats hid, others slept, a few fought whilst the majority sat quietly, staring into the middle distance, possibly imagining how things might have been.
Mitzi wasn’t going to give up like some of the others; she had a strategy! This is why Mitzi had found a special place, high on a perch right next to the entrance door where the families arrived to look for their new cat companions. As they came in, they didn’t really notice Mitzi right beside the door on her personal platform – they were looking at all the other cats dotted about the room. That is until Mitzi made herself known. A small tortoiseshell paw would wave madly towards them, desperate to hook a piece of clothing or flesh to draw them towards her so they could experience her special kind of loving. She would miaow, purr, rub, roll and do anything within her power to sell herself without actually leaving that her own high up space. She knew that this was a one-off opportunity for her when people first arrived, surely somebody would succumb to her charms?
But they didn’t. They thought she was cute but just a little too keen, to the point of looking desperate and slightly mad. She also had a haggard look about her; how old was she anyway? Who wants an old, deranged cat?
What everyone didn’t understand was why Mitzi positioned herself close to the door or why Mitzi rarely left that high perch except for the essentials when everything was dark. Mitzi hated the other cats, she was terrified of them and as they came and went over the years she was always surrounded by strangers. She was scared and had realised that staying up high was safe and it gave her potential access to people for the attention she craved so much. She was well cared for by the dedicated staff and volunteers but there were so many cats. Nobody had had the time to stop and look and her and say: “Hello Mitzi, what is your story? Tell me about yourself.”
That is until Cat Friendly Homing came to the Bermuda SPCA. The staff were taught that each cat matters and they were encouraged to see them all as individuals with different needs. What did Mitzi need? What had it been like for her to be there for so many years? As a part of the changes that the team made as a result of learning how to work in a Cat Friendly way, they realised that caring for a number of cats well was better than struggling with many. They discovered the impact of the group housing on Mitzi’s emotional wellbeing and they immediately looked for strategies for single housing of all the cats. They focused on finding the right homes for each cat in their care and creating new single cat units. Mitzi soon settled herself into a pen on her own with an outdoor area and plenty of space. Within moments she transformed into a loving cat, on ground level, whose affectionate advances seemed so much more calm and real to those who visited. A couple of days later she was adopted by a family, her age didn’t matter, they had fallen in love with her and promised to give her everything she needed for the rest of her life.
Each cat matters. International Cat Care, via their Cat Friendly Homing programme, helped this happen. Mitzi is one of millions of unowned cats around the world, all with their own special needs for the right home. Help International Cat Care make a difference to their lives.
Cat Friendly Homing is part of International Cat Care’s strategy for helping unowned cats around the world. Cat Friendly Homing supports the amazing staff and volunteers in shelters with information and advice about feline health, welfare and behaviour to help them in their work.
International Cat Care is raising funds for a new website specifically for shelter workers and is developing special affordable distance learning course on feline care.
If you’d like to support the programme, you can donate £5 by texting
INTERNATIONALCATCARE on 70085
Cat Friendly Homing is part of Cat Friendly Solutions which seeks ways to create a better world for all unowned cats everywhere – not just the ones in shelters. International Cat Care is working on supporting alternative lifestyles for free roaming cats, training vets in TNR and collaborating with other agencies to find the best non-surgical options for cat contraception. It’s a huge challenge but International Cat Care believes that the solutions are out there. Look out for future updates on Katzenworld about this exciting programme!
Charity No. 1117342