Making Matches: Evaluating Cat Behavior In-Shelter Can Lead to Better Adoptions
There are too many cats and dogs without homes in North America. According to some estimates, at least 2.5 million cats enter shelters nationwide each year, and “in some communities, only 20% of cats leave the sheltering system alive.” Many cats are euthanized that do not have behavioral problems – they are friendly and socialized adult cats that have perhaps never made it to the adoption floor, or were just never chosen for adoption in time. Even when cats do make it out of shelters, they are sometimes returned by their new owners. In past research, interviews conducted with people who returned their companion cats to shelters found that one of the main reasons for returning them was “the difficulty in the owner’s ability to predict how the animal would behave in the home.” In other words, helping adopters understand the behavior and personality of their cat before they take their new companion home is a major issue.
One program aimed at addressing that very problem is the ASPCA’s “Meet Your Match Feline-Ality Adoption Program.” This study sought to understand how well the program worked, and see if the data cards and three-day hold times associated with it made a difference to its success. Researchers found that both the original and the modified version were “significant predictors of feline behavior in the home post-adoption relative to the Valiance scale.” In an extensive analysis of one shelter that used the program, researchers also found that return rates for both original and modified programs were low, and that “shelters looking for a behavior assessment tool to fast-track cats to the adoption floor can use the modified version […] as early as 18hrs after intake.” This is a fast turnaround time, and the success rate is encouraging. Based on these results, companion animal advocates may want to look into the program and see if it could be useful in their locality.
You can read more about the ASPCA Feline-Ality Program here.