International Cat Care (iCatCare) is a charity that was established in 1958 (originally known as the Feline Advisory Bureau), specifically to expand knowledge about cats and all aspects of their care. iCatCare has gained an international reputation over the years for sharing evidence-based and practical information, much of which provides solutions for many cat-related problems. They currently have many of the world’s cat experts either working directly for them or with them in different collaborative projects.
iCatCare has developed a programme called Cat Friendly Homing (CFH) which looks at solutions specifically for unowned pet cats. These are cats that are usually kept confined in a homing centre (also known as shelters, adoption centres, rescue centres etc), in a pen or in a foster home with people who will care for them, prior to finding them a home. The development of this programme was triggered in response to a number of enquiries from people working in the sector that asked specifically for information to address their specific issues, such as long-stay cats that did not find homes but remained in cages. After years of research by iCatCare, in consultation with many of the larger homing organisations, other cat welfare charities and many smaller ‘rescues’, the charity launched a new section to their website, called Cat Friendly Solutions for Unowned Cats.
Cat Friendly Homing represents a departure from the historical practice of the ‘rescue’ model of working with unowned cats. Rescue relies predominantly on reactive responses to ‘cats in need’ and focuses on ‘rescuing’ those cats from the perceived danger to a place of safety, ie a cage within a physical building or a room in a foster home, where the cat will be cared for until somebody comes to adopt. The emphasis is on the rescue specifically rather than what happens next for the individual cat taken in. This model can lead to high numbers of cats being in care and outbreaks of infectious disease due to overcrowding and stress associated with confinement.
Cat Friendly Homing provides an alternative – a more proactive way of working that focuses more on working within the community to resolve problems before they become so extreme that cats have to be taken away or given up, for example providing temporary assistance for owners struggling financially to keep their cats during difficult times, advice about problem behaviour causing concern and addressing free-roaming unowned cat populations through management strategies such as TNR. It also focuses on each cat as an individual, enabling information to be gleaned before and during intake and while the cat is in care, to find out as much as possible and thereby achieve the best outcome to suit its specific needs.
The following are important goals of a Cat Friendly Homing centre:
- Only cats which are suitable to live as pets should go through the ‘homing’ process
- Time spent in any homing centre should be as short as possible because cats find the experience stressful and there is a greater risk of spread of disease when large numbers of cats are kept in close proximity.
- No cat should ever be worse off as a result of human intervention
- Confinement should only be part of the cat’s journey to a new home and not a permanent or prolonged situation
- Each cat should be treated as an individual taking into account its own requirements
- All cats and kittens should be neutered at the earliest opportunity and before they go to new homes in order to guarantee that they will not have kittens which could potentially add to the population of unwanted cats
- Cats obviously not suited to homing as pets (feral or street cats) should not go through the CFH process but be found solutions using TNR
Three key areas of Cat Friendly Homing:
iCatCare recognises that every situation is unique and that practices differ throughout the world. CFH is a pragmatic model that enables organisations to take from it as much or as little as they feel they need to support their work with cats. An online coaching programme on CFH is available that facilitates recognition of those things that individuals and organisations do well and those that they wish to improve. Each participant then sets their own CFH goals, based on this. In the UK RSPCA, Cats Protection and Mayhew Animal home centres have completed the programme, together with organisations from Portugal, Romania and Mexico.
For further information on CFH, see https://icatcare.org/unowned-cats/cat-friendly-homing/
For further information on the CFH Coaching Programme, see https://icatcare.org/event/becoming-a-cat-friendly-homing-centre/
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