September 11, 2018
By Nikita Lero
Founded in 1997, Town Cats has been saving stray, abandoned, unwanted and feral cats in Santa Clara County, California, since day one and hopes to save even more with the help of The Jackson Galaxy Project’s Cat Pawsitive Pro (CPP). They had learned about CPP and its benefits when they looked into having Jackson Galaxy host an event at the shelter.
Samantha Sullivan, Executive Director at Town Cats, explains just how important CPP is to their community and shelter. “There is nothing like this in the area and it truly will revolutionize the way we work harder to adopt cats,” says Sullivan. “By working closely with our network of shelters and implementing CPP, we will help these cats gain confidence and get them adopted, so we can all save more lives!”
As a private admissions shelter, Town Cats rescues on average 20-30 cats/kittens per week from municipal/city shelters in the county. Cats typically stay anywhere from six days to as long as they need before finding their fur-ever home. On average, 10-15 cats are adopted weekly from the shelter.
Town Cats’ CPP team will be comprised of five staff members and seven volunteers. This group will be led by three team leads who are ready to tackle the challenges and successes of CPP.
The first CPP team lead at Town Cats is Volunteer and Events Coordinator Kym Sugano. When she is not at the shelter organizing and helping volunteers, she enjoys birding, crocheting, knitting, and embroidering. Fur-mom to two dogs, Lilya (nine-month-old lab mix rescue) and Shatzi (seven-year-old Belgian Malinois), Sugano definitely has her hands full in and out of the shelter. With a BS from UC Davis in Wildlife, Fish and Conservation, and having been at Town Cats for three months now, it’s clear she loves working with animals. “I have always loved animals, and cats were the ones to get me into the field,” says Sugano. “When I saw this position, it just seemed like the right step to not only help a cause but be able to also work directly with animals. As the Volunteer Coordinator, I don’t work directly with them, but it’s impossible to not interact with cats when you work at a shelter!”
Sugano has high hopes for CPP. “It’s a unique program that will greatly benefit many of the cats we have at the shelter,” she says. “With CPP our hard to adopt cats will hopefully get adopted.”
The second team lead for CPP at Town Cats is Shelter Coordinator Danielle Carr. She has just over ten years of experience with volunteering/working at shelters and veterinary offices, with five years of that having been at Town Cats. Carr also has extensive experience in socializing cats to get them ready for adoption. In her spare time, she enjoys collecting all things cats, performance arts, reading Stephen King books, and volunteering with people in recovery. Carr’s cat-loving spirit shines through at the shelter and at home with her own Town Cats rescue, Valentine. This senior FIV+ cat has some of her own behavior issues as Carr describes. “She can be physically aggressive and charge me seemingly out of nowhere, but has improved a lot since I brought her home this past December,” says Carr. “She is the light of my life.”
From rescuing opossums and rodents in her parents’ backyard to saving cats today at Town Cats, it’s no wonder that she has always felt drawn to saving animals. “It wasn’t a choice for me, it’s always been a part of me,” says Carr. “As a kid I had five to six cats all the time and started rescuing lost/injured animals as soon as I could walk!”
Town Cats offers so much support before and after the adoption, which really secured Carr’s love of the shelter. “I love that they invest so much in each cat from the second they enter the shelter to long after they leave,” she says. “We check up on adopters with our case manager volunteers, and always help troubleshoot any issues that may come up when we can. From our valuable TNR program, ‘Feral Freedom,’ to partnering with local shelters to get feral cats spayed and neutered, we are a true no-kill shelter.”
The last CPP team lead for Town Cats is Cat Care Coordinator Melanie Silva. When she is not at the shelter, you can find her collecting cat-ified apparel, learning about other cultures (media, food, history, mannerisms), and cooking. Silva has two cats at home, Elphie, a 10-year-old tuxedo boy, and Minerva, a grey kitten who is full of spunk and loves to talk! With over two years of experience socializing cats during her tenure at the shelter, Silva knows how much work goes into finding cats a fur-ever home. “We really go above and beyond at Town Cats, from community interactions to creating long-term relationships with adopters,” she says. “With adoptions, if your cat gets lost or out, we will literally scour the neighborhoods on foot! If they get sick within the first month of adoption, they can be seen by our vet at no additional cost.”
Silva finds so much joy in working with cats daily and is ready to use CPP to expand her knowledge and save even more cats. “I feel like the tougher the cat, the more rewarding it is when they finally open up to you,” she says. “Knowledge is power, and I need all the power I can [get to] be able to help the greatest amount of kitties. I’ll be able to use knowledge I gain from this program for a lifetime.”
When planning on which cats to start off with in the CPP training, a few cats sprung into mind for the team leads. Sugano, Carr, and Silva all agree the first cat they want to enroll in CPP is Tucson, a new beautiful cat who was an owner surrender. “She really wants to be able to open up, but she has a lot of fear that manifests into anger,” says Carr. “She comes off very sweet when you approach her, but it quickly turns from nuzzling to hissing and lashing out. She has made some good progress here and I am looking forward to trying out CPP with her.”
Madame Tortuga, Elvis and Victoria are three other felines that Silva thinks could really benefit from CPP training. “Madame Tortuga and Victoria are sweet cats from time to time (so they have the potential), but their attitudes can quickly switch to fearful or aggressive,” explains Silva. “With Elvis, who is FIV+, he’s quick to overstimulate, cat aggressive, and tends to get bitey.”
Town Cats often sees cats with similar behavior issues in their shelter. Mostly they encounter the following: overstimulation-aggression, shutdown, fear, biting, hissing, and swatting.
Most of these behaviors are a defense mechanism for cats who are primarily a victim of circumstances. “Cats are amazing creatures that should be lounging around and having a good time, so to see those that are unable to do so is so disheartening,” says Silva. “I feel ecstatic when I see progress in them though…it’s immensely rewarding!” With CPP, Town Cats will focus on changing these learned behaviors even more in their kitties.
Town Cats hopes to focus the CPP training on what they call their ‘Legacy Cats,’ as Executive Director Sullivan explains. “These are kitties who have been with us for years, some close to 10 years,” she says. “They are shy/nervous cats that need to feel safe and confident around people to improve their chances of finding their fur-ever home.”
Town Cats also plans to use CPP training to bring in more cats from their municipal shelters and save more cats throughout Santa Clara County.
Want to keep up with news about the lifesaving work of The Jackson Galaxy Project’s Cat Pawsitive Pro initiative? Follow us on Facebook at The Jackson Galaxy Project. You can learn more about the program and support our work at www.catpawsitive.org. The Jackson Galaxy Project is a Signature Program of GreaterGood.org.