Putting the Extra in Extra Special Cats

Kathleen Goward, Treasurer

2007 MADDIE’S FUND MARKETING COMPETITION

A winning program in the 2007 Maddies Fund Marketing Competition submitted by KittyKind, Inc.


MISSION:

KittyKind is a not-for-profit (501)(c), no-kill, all volunteer feline rescue organization and aparticipating member (APO) of the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals. KittyKinds philosophyhas always been to care for cats and kittens regardless of how adoptable they are or how long theymay live. Each cat and kitten is given the opportunity for a life filled with comfort and love. In thisspirit KittyKind supports two foster homes where many FELV and other hard-to-place cats live.However a major part of our mission is to find homes for all of our cats and kittens, acknowledgingthe fact that placement in a home is ideal to that of a foster home. Our heartfelt belief is that eachand every one of them deserves their own home and the dedicated love and affection that come with that.

OUR APPROACH:

Our approach towards hard-to-place cats begins with terminology. We make a point of not referringto our cats with disabilities as special needs cats, as this implies a negative added burden of care.Instead we have coined the phrase Extra Special to invoke the sense that you get somethingpositive and special from these cats. The term Extra Special highlights that cats with disabilitiescompensate by giving much more back to their caregivers. Many of us who volunteer for KittyKindhave experienced this ourselves. A special bond is created between human and cat wherein the extracare given is reciprocated by the appreciation given in return.

KittyKind categorizes the following conditions as Extra Special:

  • Vision impairment either total or partial blindness
  • Missing or injured limbs
  • Paralyzed partially or totally
  • FIV positive
  • FELV positive
  • Neurological problems such as cerebellar hypoplasia, seizures, brain damage
  • Severe obesity which can cause diabetes, urinary problems and other health problems
  • Urinary tract problems
  • DiabetesElderly – typically 7 years or older
  • Poorly socialized or semi-feral
  • Psychological problems resulting from abuse, etc.
  • Cage Stress cats that are unable to adapt to being in a cage or in public

Experience has taught us that a multi-faceted approach works best for adoption of these ExtraSpecial cats. While one approach might work for one cat, it may not be appropriate for another.Advertising is essential, but needs to be part of a larger effort to educate and promote publicawareness about these cats.MARKETING TOOLS:Our Extra Special campaign is publicized in the following ways. Please also refer to the attachments.

  1. Newsletter: Our spring newsletter for 2007 was dedicated to celebrating our Extra Specialcats and kittens. We hope to educate our readers on how wonderful and deserving these catsare. Many of the cats highlighted in this newsletter are FELV positive, a group more difficultto place in homes than FIV positive cats.
  2. Website: www.kittykind.org has a link on the front page to our Extra Special KittyKindCats page which carries our slogans The Extra is getting much more than you give andWe Redefine Purrfection. Cats are displayed on the website with photos and biographiesand a hyperlink to medical information about their condition. This web page also has a linkto our Happy Endings web page that features adoption success stories.
  3. Other online Venues: Petfinder, Catster, MySpace, Facebook. A profile consisting ofphotos and a short biography of each cat is generated and distributed to a group ofvolunteers. A volunteer is responsible for managing each site, keeping it current by updatingor removing cat profiles as needed. This ensures that the task of maintaining each site ismanageable. A link to our cats on Petfinder is located on the homepage of our website.
  4. Adoption Center Bulletin Board: KittyKind has a 4′ x 8′ bulletin board displayedprominently in our adoption center. It features photos and descriptions of the Extra Specialcats that are not currently in the adoption center.
  5. Informational handouts: A short description of common feline medical conditions and howto work with the cats that have these conditions are available at our adoption center.
  6. Placement at our adoption center: This is one of our most successful ways of adopting ourExtra Special cats and kittens. Having direct contact with the cat demonstrates to theadopting public that each cat has a personality and enables the public to more easilyempathize and bond with the cat. In fact our one-eyed or three-legged cats get adopted fasterthan our non-disabled cats.

    Celeste, for example, is paralyzed from the waist down but is still able to pull herselfalong with her front legs and even uses the litter pan without assistance. Only a week aftercoming to KittyKind’s adoption center a woman was absolutely smitten with her and asked toadopt her. A second person, who had also connected with Celeste, offered to pay for awheeled cart in order to increase her mobility.

    We also place colorful signs on the cages that draw the publics attention to these catsand make a point of situating our Extra Special cats in cages that are at eye level to thepublic. (Please see Attachment 4)

  7. Adoption counselor training: Our adoption counselors are attuned to people visiting ouradoption center who might be receptive and capable of caring for special needs cats. Theydirect these individuals to our bulletin board and to the Petfinder kiosk that has a directcomputer link to the Petfinder website where many of our Extra Special cats are posted.Additionally they receive a weekly print-out of the Extra Special cats on our website sothat they have the most up-to-date information on these cats. This list is also posted on thebulletin board. All these techniques help match the right person to a special cat.
  8. Public outreach: KittyKind takes advantage of opportunities to heighten awareness of thegeneral public to our Extra Special cats. Estrida, an indefatigable volunteer, regularly takescats and kittens in cages to Union Square Park in Manhattan and talks to the public about

KittyKind. She frequently includes Extra Special cats if they are comfortable with beingoutside.

This year we decided to bring Black Bart to the adoption event at the Madison SquareGarden Cat Show. Black Bart survived distemper, but now has cerebellar hypoplasia — awobbly, bobbly. A sign with our slogan Extra Special We Redefine Purrfectionhighlighted how wonderful and loving these cats can be despite their disabilities. Thejuxtaposition of the show cats bred to perfection and Black Bart in all of his naturalperfection was undeniable.

Sometimes a bit of creativity helps make an adoption happen. Abou came to us after having fallenfrom a window in Brooklyn with all four leg bones fractured just above the ankle. After fourmonths in recovery with our vet he was re-assessed by an orthopedic veterinarian specialist whoconcluded that the fractures were too severe for anything more to be done. Although Abou is able towalk it is a painful process because he walks on the stubs of the broken bones. While in a fosterhome he bonded with a little grey kitten, named Prince Phillip, with whom he liked to wrestle andwe decided that they should be life partners. Shortly after coming to our adoption center the twofound a home together with a family that adores them. Having a kitten companion was a keyelement in raising Abous visibility and showing the public how animated and active he can be.

ASSESSMENT/CARE & SUPPORT

Our multi-faceted approach to these Extra Special cats begins with an assessment of every cat thatis taken in to determine its needs. This is crucial for developing an appropriate treatment plan for acat in order to prepare it for adoption. The first stop is the vet for any cats that need medical care andfrom there these cats can be placed in foster homes while they recover from any medical procedures.We also take the time to work with cats that were fed poor quality diets and as a result developedurinary tract problems, diabetes, severe obesity and other health problems. We have discovered thatmany urinary tract problems and the associated litter box issues are related to poor quality food andresolve themselves without additional medication when the cat is switched to a high quality diet.We also have volunteers who work with shy cats or cats with behavior problems. We know fromexperience that many cats with behavior problems are frequently acting out their dissatisfaction withtheir previous owners. Our volunteer foster network works with cats to retrain and give them time torecover from abuse and psychological problems in a non-threatening environment. We also knowthat finding the right adoption match can correct behavioral issues and our adoption counselorsprovide ongoing support to adopting families to educate them and help them address problems.Education and understanding are key elements in making an adoption one that lasts a lifetime.

Stella, a 2 year old tabby rescued from the New York City ACC euthanasia list is a behavioralsuccess story. When I took her in I didn’t appreciate the full meaning of the phrase aggressivebehavior in the ACC description. I found out just what this meant when she attacked my legs,leaving severe bite marks. Observation of her behavior revealed that Stella is very high energy andover-reactive, often flinching at sudden movements and becoming upset when left alone. Based onthis she was moved in with other cats and we began a retraining program. Now four months later,she is ready to find her forever home. While still jumpy, she no longer reacts with biting or clawing.We will look for a home suited to her personality one without children and with another highenergy male cat (males tend to be less reactive than females). We find that time and caring supportfrequently go a long way towards curing psychological distress. It is amazing how forgivinganimals can be and how they can go on to form healthy relationships in their new homes once giventhe time and right environment in which to recuperate.

KittyKind is one of several NYC groups that take in older cats. Located in Petco — a prime NYCadoption location — we have been very successful in placing them. A recent example was a pair of15-year-old cats, Velvet and Lace, which were left behind when their elderly owner was hospitalizedand later died. The two cats were devoted to one another. We knew we couldnt possibly separatethem, but we also knew it would be a challenge to adopt two senior cats together. After a brief stayin our adoption center, they touched the hearts of a loving, understanding couple and found a home.Post-adoption support is important for all of our cats, but in particular the adjustment for ExtraSpecial cats can be slightly more difficult. Our adoption protocol includes making a representativeavailable to adopters for advice, recommendations and providing resources to make the transition aseasy as possible both for the cat and the adopter. Additional follow-up with the adopter is also animportant part of the process.

WORKING IN PARTNERSHIP:

KittyKind works in conjunction with the Mayor’s Alliance to adopt the Picasso Fund cats. PicassoFund cats are rescued from certain death at the Animal Care and Control facility in New York City.Through the work of this fund, cats facing serious medical issues, but who have an otherwise brightfuture, receive lifesaving care and are then placed in loving homes. By working in partnership withthe Alliance, we get the benefit of having major medical care provided through relationships theyhave created with specialized veterinary practices, while the Alliance is provided with an adoptionoutlet for these cats to find a loving home.

Most special needs cats and kittens require additional veterinarian care before adoption. We doeverything we reasonably can to bring cats to a state of overall good health before attempting toplace them in their own home. When Dixie came under our care this past year, we discovered that inthe past her pelvis had been broken. Although the break had healed, it did so in a way that left herincontinent. Correcting this problem required the surgical skills of a specialty vet practice and aninvolved procedure requiring four months of recovery. But it was well worth it. She is now inperfect health and has found her forever home.

One of our veterinarians, Dr. Giangola, has been particularly understanding and helpful to ourmission of providing for our special cats. He believes very deeply in what we do and has workedwith us on keeping medical costs down. Dr. Giangola has frequently said, KittyKind doesn’tabandon these cats, so how can I? He is a kind and extremely compassionate person who values thelives of the animals he cares for. He has taken sick cats and kittens home with him to make certainthat they survive and only euthanizes animals when there is absolutely no prospect for hope and tohumanely end suffering. He is an integral partner in our work to continue to provide innumerablesecond chances to New York Citys rescued cats.

RESULTS:
FOR THE YEAR 2006
Total Intake of Cats = 1601
Total number of Cats Adopted – 1614
Total number of Extra Special Cats adopted – 127
Percent of total adoptions 7.8%

FOR THE YEAR TO DATE Sept/2007
Total Intake of Cats = 1107
Total number of Cats Adopted – 1072
Total number of Extra Special Cats adopted – 134
Percent of total adoptions 12.5%

Mayor’s Alliance for NYC animals are included because all have required some type of medicalassistance to be adoptable.

Placement time from date of intake to adoption date varies depending upon the category ofdisability. Cats that need socialization spend on average 3-4 months in foster homes before being placed. Once in the adoption center they are adopted at the same rate as other cats. Cats with physical problems typically take a few more weeks to be adopted with the exception of 3 legged and visually impaired cats who spend less time in the adoption center than physically able cats.

FELV positive cats have been a particular challenge, as the adopter must accept that the cat maynot live more than a few months. Many FELV positive cats can live up to 10 years, but it isdifficult to predict which ones will thrive. We attempt to cultivate adopters who take only FELVpositive cats. We have been more successful with FIV positive cats as they can predictably livelonger lives.

As with all of our cats if any of our Extra Special cats appear to be languishing in the adoptioncenter we move them into foster homes until their spirits have lifted. They are then returned toour adoption center.

Please see Attachment 5 for detailed information on adoptions and categories of hard to placecats.

FUTURE STEPS

Our campaign to adopt our Extra Special cats and kittens is always a work in progress. We haveour websites, bulletin board, etc, but a good campaign changes and expands to meet the needs ofnew challenges presented to us. We are currently working on adding video clips of our ExtraSpecial cats to our website so that the public can see them in action and in all of their glory. We arealso in the process of developing a sponsorship program called Love for Life whereby sponsors canmonetarily support an Extra Special cats until they are adopted and receive periodic updates onthem. We continue to look at each of our special cats and attempt to formulate a program that fits thespecific needs of each cat with the intent of hastening the final adoption.

Thank you for considering our application.
Kathleen Goward
Treasurer
KittyKind, Inc.

P.S. Just as I finished this proposal, I received an email from the person who adopted Celeste, theparalyzed cat, so I am including the email and photo as Attachment.6 and much to our delight, BlackBart, our wobbly bobbly shown at the 2007 Madison Square Garden Cat show was adoptedyesterday.


The Maddies Fund Marketing Competition was for Petfinder.com members, and the purpose was to find effective marketing strategies for adopting hard to place dogs and cats.

The Maddie’s Fund mission and purpose is to help the nation’s most needy dogs and cats that, for one reason or another, have ended up in animal shelters. Established in 1999, the foundation awards millions of dollars through grants to animal welfare coalitions to end the killing of healthy and treatable shelter dogs and cats.

 

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