Five Key Initiatives to Make a World of Difference.
The Million Cat Challenge encompasses five key initiatives to balance intake, humane capacity within the shelter, and live outcome:
Alternatives to intake:
Provide positive alternatives to keep cats in the home or community when admission to a shelter is not the best choice.
Schedule intake of cats to match the shelter’s ability to assure humane care and safe movement through the shelter system to an appropriate outcome for every cat.
Capacity for care:
Match the number of cats cared for at any one time with the capacity required to support the Five Freedoms of Animal Welfare for all cats in the shelter.
Removing barriers to adoption:
Expand the pool of adopters by removing barriers to adoption such as cost, process, or location.
Return to field:
Sterilize, vaccinate, and return healthy un-owned shelter cats to the location of origin as an alternative to euthanasia.
These initiatives were chosen because they have the potential to create major impact and offer choices for shelters of any size, budget, or intake type.
Shelters need not implement or embrace all five initiatives to participate in the challenge. Even one initiative can set the foundation for dramatic improvement. Each initiative can also lay the foundation for others, which can be implemented synergistically in any order. They can be implemented for only one cat, for a small pilot project, or in whole. Each step toward implementation, however small, will have value.
The overarching goal of the five key initiatives is to give shelters the tools to evaluate, for each individual cat or kitten, whether intake to the shelter is the best choice now, later, or not at all, given the choices available for that shelter and community at that moment in time. Once a cat is admitted, the goal is to give shelters of any size and budget the tools to assure humane care, provide the Five Freedoms for animal welfare, and match each individual cat with the most appropriate outcome, whether that is being reunited with the owner, adoption into a new home, or sterilization, vaccination, and return to the location of origin.
The initiatives within this campaign originated from the creativity, determination, and courage of many shelters and individuals. Widespread participation will be a foundation for success of the Million Cat Challenge. The participating shelters themselves will serve as a source of inspiration, mentoring, and leadership on a local and regional level. We also hope to engage the support of national partners representing all major animal welfare, protection, and animal control organizations.
One or more of the initiatives is not right for our shelter or community at this point. Can we still participate even if we don’t use all five?
Absolutely! One reason the Million Cat Challenge encompasses multiple strategies is that not every initiative will make sense for every shelter. For some shelters, legislative obstacles or lack of resources will pose barriers to implementation. For others, one or another of the initiatives may not feel consistent with the shelter's mission or beliefs.
In some cases, there may simply be no need for some of the initiatives. For instance, a shelter that has ample resources to care for all cats coming their way may not need to worry about managing admission, but relies upon robust adoption and/or return-to-field programs to keep cats moving safely along. A shelter that serves primarily as a sanctuary may not be concerned about removing barriers to adoption, but could still benefit greatly from Capacity for Care.
Fortunately, the initiatives can work well singly as well as in concert. Starting with even one initiative can improve operations and build resources to expand live saving efforts. For example, portalizing cages to bring a shelter within Capacity for Care can improve cat health and drop length of stay, freeing up time, money and medical team focus for other programs.
Alternatives to Intake and/or Managing Admission can stem the tide of cats entering the shelter, while Removing Barriers to Adoption and/or Return-to-Field can speed cats to an appropriate outcome instead of languishing in the system. In turn, any of these strategies can open up space to make Capacity for Care possible.
Although humane care and life-saving programs will always remain guiding priorities, the best means for each organization to get there will doubtless shift over time as communities, shelters and our own knowledge and understanding evolve. Whether using one initiative or all five, the Million Cat Challenge is an inclusive campaign which celebrates the efforts of all shelters to save more lives.