A $10,000 winner in the 2008 Maddie’s Fund Marketing Competition; submitted by Placer SPCA, Roseville, Calif.
By the end of January 2008, the Placer SPCA found itself with more than a dozen overweight cats. The influx of large, typically older cats impacted our centers capacity to house all felines, as each large cat required a large cage by itself. These cages are usually used for siblings or multiple cats surrendered together. Older cats, especially those with special needs, are hard to place in comparison to the influx of a large kitten population that occurs at the same time.
The confinement of shelter cages can be detrimental to a plus-size cats health by limiting movement and opportunity for exercise. Overweight cats face the same health dangers as overweight humans, such as diabetes and heart disease, and the Placer SPCA staff felt that it was very important that these cats not spend very long at the shelter.
In order to encourage adoptions of these special cats, during the month of February we offered Flabulous Felines Free to a Good Home month. We waived the usual $95 adoption fee.
Promotion of our special was done through local media outlets and the four area chambers of commerce. We received coverage in The Sacramento Bee and the local Fox network affiliate and aired an interview on a local radio station.
Local author Martha Garvey, upon reading about our Fat Cat special, donated several signed copies of her book, My Fat Cat: Ten Simple Steps to Help Your Pet Lose Weight for a Long and Happy Life. In addition to a copy of the book for the first few to adopt, adopters received special counseling to understand the needs of their plump new pets.
As a result of our outreach efforts, 11 of the 12 hard-to-adopt overweight cats were adopted during the promotion, with the twelfth going home a few weeks later. In addition to the overweight cats adopted, the promotion increased awareness of our facility and brought traffic to the center, resulting in an increase in overall cat adoptions.
The Placer SPCA, like all animal rescue and sheltering organizations, struggles to place the large number of cats brought in. In October 2008, for instance, our center housed 181 cats, compared to 37 dogs. In order to educate the public about our center and bring in potential adopters, we hold a special each month. Generally, the adoption fee is lowered to $25 for the cats of the month; in February the adoption fee was waived entirely because of the urgency of the need for these cats to be adopted. Those who adopt at the lower fee receive all the services regularly provided at the usual fee, including spaying or neutering, microchipping, leukemia/feline AIDS testing, and vaccinations. Our actual expenses, not fully covered at the lower fee, are subsidized with donations and other fees for services.
We have a partnership with a local radio station to help with the promotions, and members of our staff use their creativity to highlight the specials. For instance, in March a pot of gold was placed in the lobby from which different colored coins were drawn. The different coins represented additional discounts to the adoption fee.
We are especially proud of the Flabulous Feline special because of the impact on the animals health that a long stay in the center could have. However, we make a special effort each month for the benefit of the many cats housed here. Overcrowding can seriously impact the center, leading to disease transmission and other problems. We will continue to develop new ideas to adopt all our animals to loving homes.