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Marketing Cat Adoption: ‘Certified Pre-Owned Cats’

The following is from the Summer 2010 issue of Protecting Animals, American Humane’s quarterly journal for animal welfare professionals. Used by permission. To learn more, visit

‘Certified Pre-Owned Cats’ Campaign

By Michael Robbins, Director of Marketing and Communications of the Michigan Humane Society, Detroit, MI

“They come in many makes and models, loaded with adorable features and the latest technology, and best of all, they’re available with $0 down/0% financing. What’s more, their value actually increases when you take them home!” So begins the press release that launched our “Certified Pre-Owned Cats” campaign in June 2009. During the program — which was originally intended to last only through the difficult summer months, but was extended until year end due to its success — the adoption fee for cats age 4 months and older was waived.

Promotional materials for the program list “Features and Specs,” such as standard 4-paw drive, a 100,000- purr warranty, no-charge microchipping and a multi- point inspection, including spay/neuter surgery, age appropriate vaccinations, and a medical check-up and behavior evaluation. Potential adopters can also get the history of their cat before adopting by visiting www.catfax. org, a special webpage featuring listings, but designed to look like the popular car-history website CARFAX.

The shelter itself is festooned with hand-painted window signs and checkered flags to resemble a car lot. This unique campaign has garnered multiple television appearances for the shelter, including live remotes during the morning news broadcast of the local NBC affiliate, and a 30-second used-car-style TV commercial produced by the shelter is featured on YouTube and the shelter website. Thanks to the campaign, awareness is up, traffic is up across the board and adoptions are way up for cats.

From June 2009 through January 2010, the Michigan Humane Society adopted out 3,319 adult cats, compared to 1,290 cats during the same period a year earlier — a 61 percent increase! Due to the program’s success in saving cats’ lives, it has been extended through 2010.

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