This article first appeared on iCatCare here.
Mitzi was a very special cat that Vicky Halls and Kim Horsford from iCatCare met when they were training the staff and volunteers at the Bermuda SPCA. Seeing the positive impact on individual cats is a real incentive to evolve for the sake of cats and embrace a Cat Friendly way of working – read Mitzi’s story.
For potential adopters visiting the Bermuda SPCA shelter, Mitzi always came as a bit of a surprise.
Mitzi lived with 30 or more other cats in a brightly coloured communal room for unowned pets, 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 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; she had a strategy!
This is how Mitzi found her 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 special perch – 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 charm offensive. She would miaow, purr, rub, roll and do anything within her power to sell herself without leaving that one small space. This was a one-off opportunity, surely somebody would succumb?
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? Who wants an old, deranged cat anyway?
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 access to the affection from people 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 at 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 is an individual 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 their training 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 mental 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 in 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.
For more information about the Cat Friendly Homing programme, including access to the free, certified introductory course ‘Bring Cat Friendly Solutions for Unowned Cats to Life’, click HERE.
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I am the feline behaviour specialist at feline charity ‘International Cat Care’. We are about engaging, educating and empowering people throughout the world to improve the health and welfare of cats by sharing advice, training and passion.