Published on:  
Oct 22, 2015

What do you do if someone gets angry at an Alternatives to Intake policy?

Dear Million Cat Challenge,

Regarding Alternatives to Intake: If someone becomes angry at your policy and walks out/threatens to abandon an indoor cat, for example, are you recommending that the shelter attempt to intake those animals as they previously would? – Caught Between a Rock and a Hard Place
Dear Caught,      

The key to giving every cat what she needs is flexibility. Managing the flow of intake and matching intake to capacity for care allows the shelter to be nimble in responding to emergencies and making timely exceptions for cats who should be admitted right away. 

An overcrowded shelter is less likely to be able to provide positive outcomes for cats who are already there or are admitted haphazardly when the shelter is already full.

It is our experience that most people who are bringing cats to shelters are hoping for a positive outcome. Even if they are exasperated, they don’t want the cats to be harmed. If it’s not in the cat’s best interest to come into the shelter at this time, we can still help that person overcome obstacles to keeping the cat or help them find another home. Just knowing that we are trying to help them find the best solution for each cat and that they are not in it alone is enough to calm down most shelter visitors. 

Keep in mind too, it is ok to make exceptions. Here’s how one shelter director put it: 

“When the situation is impossible for the owner, or on the rare occasion that a person just isn't reasonable at all, we take the cat in…. (W)e build it into the program, always keeping a few cages open for "emergencies.” Even if it happened daily, taking in one extra cat a day beats the H out of taking in the 50 cats a day that in the past we sometimes did.”

In short: communicate with calm and conviction, offer resources rather than just saying no, and know that even if some cats slip through, your shelter and the cats have still come out ahead. 

Dr. Kate Hurley