How do you know how much excellent housing, or what level of staffing, will be enough to serve the incoming population of cats? Put simply, the required C4C is equal to the daily average intake of animals, times the ideal length of stay. Minimizing length of stay through attentive population management and high quality housing is the most humane and effective way to achieve C4C.
Even when length of stay is at its most efficient, however, there will be a minimum number of animals that will need housing and care in order to accommodate daily intake. Length of stay should never be decreased so drastically it impedes the ability to provide care or achieve live outcomes. If there is insufficient staffing or housing to safely hold even this minimum number, additional capacity needs to be developed.
There is also a maximum number of animals beyond which additional holding can actually be counterproductive, even if ample space and staffing exists. The number of animals in the shelter can, in itself, be the strongest driver of length of stay.
This is most evident in adoptions. For a given rate of daily adoptions, more animals awaiting adoption will mean a longer average LOS to adoption.
For example, if one animal is adopted per day, and 10 are housed in adoption, the average LOS to adoption will be 10 days. If 20 more animals are added (for a total of 30), and average daily adoptions stay steady at one per day, the average LOS will automatically increase to 30 days.
The simplest way to decrease LOS in this context is one time to adopt out more cats than are admitted. Once a new steady state is reached, it will be self-sustaining. Ideally, each shelter will maintain the number of cats for adoption at a self-sustaining level that maximizes adoptions while minimizing length of stay to adoption. When this number is exceeded, short term adoption specials or intake management can bring it back into balance.
It’s not always necessary to delve deeply into capacity calculations to find the sweet spot between minimum and maximum. Some shelters have simply taken the plunge by improving housing and found the resultant decreased length of stay made up for any loss of physical holding capacity.
However, for shelters where the length of stay is already very short, shelters with special considerations (such as routine adoption mega-events or infrequent but substantial transport opportunities), or considering major investments in remodeling or building a new facility, it makes sense to dig deeper.
More detailed instructions on calculating the ideal number of animals awaiting adoption can be found here. Or if you’d rather watch than read, or do a bit of both, you can find a webinar on calculating capacity here.
Whichever way you choose, good luck and please let us know how it goes by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.