Here some frequently asked questions about the Meet Your Match Feline-ality Adoption Program. Click a link below to jump to the FAQs for that Feline-ality topic.
Using Data Cards
Equipment and Process
Feline-ality and Adoptions
Using Data Cards
When should we collect data card information for cats in heat? When should we conduct the assessment?
Proceed with collecting the data card information just as you would with any cat, and wait to conduct the Feline-ality assessment until after the heat is over. You’ll want to explain these special circumstances to the adopter interested in the cat so that the adopter is aware that the assessment may not be entirely predictive of the cat’s future behavior.
How does implementing Feline-ality affect the order of exams, vaccinations, spay/neuter surgery, etc.?
Depending on the current sequence of these activities in your facility, things can change quite a bit. With Feline-ality, you will be conducting health exams and vaccinations at intake. We want to ensure that cats are not disturbed once they have settled into their holding cages, and that interactions they have with their caretakers during that time are not associated with negative events, such as vaccinations.
During the acclimation period, and for the duration of their stay in your facility, we recommend spot cleaning while the cat remains in the cage, unless the cage is soiled with urine, feces, blood or mucous, when thorough cleaning is called for. This will help lower the cat’s stress level and decrease the likelihood of succumbing to disease. Data card collection conducted during the acclimation period greatly factors into the overall assessment for each cat. The predictive value of the information gathered during this time is negatively affected if these recommendations are not followed.
Lastly, we urge organizations to refrain from spaying/neutering until after the cat has received the Feline-ality assessment and a color-coded cage card has been assigned.
Can the data card information be collected later if the cat needs more time to settle in?
No. The information regarding ‘settling in’ is exactly what we want to capture when the environment is novel. Always remember there is no good or bad, there is just Feline-ality. The cat’s response during those first 36 hours is predictive how he will likely behave his first few days in his new home.
When do we collect data card information for sick or injured cats, and when should we assess them?
The information gathered on the data card (collected in the first 36 hours) is predictive only if it is gathered in first 36 hours. Complete data card collection for cats who arrive a bit sneezy or unkempt looking but are bright, alert and responsive. We recommend that you then wait until the cat is healthy to conduct the Feline-ality assessment.
We house our cats in multi-cat cages. How do we collect data for their individual data cards?
Cats need to be singly housed for data card collection. If at all possible, separate the cats and collect their data card information while they’re housed separately.
An exception might be two cats who have always lived together, are very strongly bonded, and who will be highly stressed if separated. In this circumstance, if housing the cats next to each other in separate cages is still too stressful for them, you may want to consider housing them together. You can collect their data card information with only one caveat if food was eaten, you cannot assign points to either cat for consumption of food since you won’t know which cat ate it.
Do cats who come in together have to be separated for data card collection and the assessment?
Yes, but you can house them next to each other so that they can hear and smell each other. After the assessments are completed, if appropriate, you can house them together.
We want to implement Feline-ality but we have so many cats, with more coming in all the time, that we don’t know how we can assess them all. How should we proceed?
“Too many cats” is a common concern when you first implement Feline-ality. Happily, shelters report that once the program is underway, the Feline-ality data collection and assessment process decreased overall the time they spent caring for the cats.
Here are some strategies for implementing Feline-ality with your current cat population:
- Pick a date on which you will begin assessing all incoming cats. As new cats come in, create data cards for them, and assess them after 48-72 hours.
Your current population of cats can remain available for adoption without Feline-ality assessments. Explain to adopters that the Feline-ality Adoption Program has just started in your shelter, but that all cats on the adoption floor are available to adopt.
As time permits, you can assess cats in the current population. Because you won’t have data cards for these cats, the predictive value of the assessment is slightly less.
- Throw a Feline-ality Assessment party. Close your shelter for a day, order in pizzas, and have shelter staff assess all your cats. Again, you won’t have data cards for these cats, but all of them will be “participants” in Feline-ality when adopters come in to look for purple, orange, and green cats.
How long does the assessment take to conduct?
The amount of time will vary from facility to facility, as it depends on where your novel room is in relation to your cat kennels. However, 12-15 minutes per cat is a fair estimate.
How consistent do we need to be about assessing cats within 48-72 hours?
The ideal time to assess is at 72 hours, but anywhere from 48-72 will maintain the predictability of the assessment. Assessing at any time outside that window is not recommended because it affects the predictability of the results.
Should we wait until the end of the hold period to assess cats who come in as strays to give an owner a chance to reclaim them?
Unfortunately, owner reclaim of cats is usually quite low. We recommend shelters review reclaim rates based on number of days in shelter. In most facilities, the vast majority of pets are reclaimed within the first 24-48 hours of entering the shelter. If this is the case in your facility, we strongly recommend assessing cats during their stray hold period, so that, if not reclaimed, they can go up for adoption immediately once the holding period is over.
While a few cats that have been assessed might go back to the original owner, in most cases this will not happen. For those cats who are reclaimed there is fun information to share with the guardian!
Why can’t we do the assessment close to the cleaning/feeding?
You don’t want cats to be interaction-satiated when you assess them. Often the staff doing the cleaning and feeding also do the assessments, so that a cat will be even less likely to interact as he or she normally would if the cat hadn’t recently seen the person doing the assessment.
Can we reassess a cat if we think the cat was having a bad day during his or her assessment?
We do not recommend reassessing cats under these circumstances. The Feline-ality Assessment score is not good or bad: it’s just that cat’s personality. If you reassess, the assessment is no longer novel to the cat, which makes the predictability of that assessment plummet.
If a cat we assessed previously is returned, should we reassess the cat?
If the adopter reports a drastic difference from what you’d expect from the cat’s assessment the first time, or if the cat’s been out more than 2 to 3 weeks, you can re-assess the cat.
If the cat’s sitting on in the evaluator’s lap but is not engaging, does that count as “interaction”?
Yes. Any touch to the evaluator counts as interaction.
Why is “avoids eye contact” a possible response for the Play Assessment item?
If the cat isn’t playing AND noticeably turns away, these behaviors are predictive of the cat’s sociability.
What do we do about cats who score lower than 5 on the independent-gregarious scale?
Cats who score fewer than five points on the independent-gregarious scale are not ready to be part of the adoption pool. They will need a day or two more of adjustment time in your facility. You may also want to place them in a foster home for a while. We hypothesize that cats who score this low are not behaving as they normally would: they are “shut down” and need a bit more time to settle before they are ready for Feline-ality assessment.
Equipment and Process
How important is it to have a quiet room for the novel space assessment? Can this room have windows?
It is imperative that the novel room be quiet. We recommend that you purchase a white noise machine to put in your assessment room to help buffer unwanted noise.
Ideally, this room should not have windows. If the room does have windows, be sure to cover them with thick white paper or blinds on the outside of the window. That way, the cats cannot see through them or be distracted by what is happening outside the room.
Do we need to use the same room as the novel room for all Feline-ality assessments?
Yes, consistency within your facility and between cats is very important to consistent assessment.
How small can the novel room be?
Ideally the room should be 10 x 10 feet. The novel room should not be smaller than 6 x 8 feet — and even that is really tight.
We have a very small staff. How can we work Feline-ality into our schedule?
Most facilities have limited resources, so this is a chance to think outside the box a little bit. Here are some strategies that other shelters with limited staff have used successfully:
- Some have adjusted staff schedules around to facilitate one or two staff members being available as the primary evaluators.
- Other shelters have identified MYM as an opportunity to bring in some of their reliable volunteers to help out.
- Another approach is to identify some staff who are not currently handling the cats but who have interest in interacting with them, and schedule them to do one or two days of assessments per week.
What are the characteristics of a good evaluator?
There’s a physical/cat handling and an objective/observation set of skills both are needed to conduct the assessments; however, we have not received feedback to indicate that the assessment has been challenging to learn and conduct correctly. With that said, finding a person with good feline handling skills and an objective aptitude is ideal.
Feline-ality and Adoptions
Which Feline-alities can we house together in our colony rooms?
Shelters using Feline-ality should still use their regular methods for choosing cats who will do well in colony housing. The assessment does not provide this information.
How can adopters tell which Feline-ality cage card goes with each cat in a colony room?
You can put a photo of the cat next to his or her Feline-ality cage card so that adopters can see which cats have the Feline-alities they are looking for. In addition you may also want to get colorful purple, orange and green cat ID collars or tags so that adopters can immediately identify each cat’s color.
When should potential adopters complete the adopter survey?
We recommend that you encourage potential adopters to take the survey before they go look at the cats. Some people may prefer to see the cats first, and that’s ok, too.
Most shelters typically ask that potential adopters complete the survey before visiting with a particular cat in a get-acquainted room.
If Meet Your Match Feline-ality is presented to the public as a fun and exciting program (on your website or in your lobby), most people will choose to take the survey before visiting with cats.
How many people override their survey results and go for aesthetics anyway?
This happens occasionally, especially if an adopter bonds with a particular cat outside their color category. It’s important, in these instances, to have a conversation with the adopter about what this cat’s behavior will be like in the home. Allow the adopter to decide whether those behaviors will work out.
What assessment do we use for people who want a kitten?
There is no “kitten-ality,” and there are no plans to research and develop that program. However, some agencies using Feline-ality use the cat adopter survey for all potential cat/kitten adopters.
Which feline-alities are best for multi-cat households? For households with dogs?
The Feline-ality assessment does not give us this information. However, the ASPCA is currently researching which Feline-alities do best with each other. The results of this research are not yet available.
Has the Feline-ality research found correlation between cats that scatter/cover and litter box issues?
Yes, there was some correlation in the research. However, due to the small sample size, the results were not statistically significant enough to be useful information. The ASPCA plans to further research litter box use.
How did you measure “return-to-shelter” in the Feline-ality research?
Any animal that was returned to the shelter within 30 days of the adoption counted as a return.
Was research conducted with cats of varying ages? Is it worth assessing older cats who come to the shelter?
During our research, the age range of subjects was 9 months to 10 years.
You can definitely assess older cats! In fact, one of our beta test sites had amazing results placing elderly cats with Feline-ality. They had lots of long-term, older cats who moved out quite quickly once the shelter implemented Feline-ality.
Did you gather information about adopters who adopted outside their color category?
Yes. During our post-adoption follow up, we asked whether the cat fit the adopter’s lifestyle. The adopters who adopted outside their color category gave the “match” lower scores than adopters who adopted cats within their color category.
This is which is exactly what we would expect. However, those same adopters reported the cats they adopted met their expectations because the adoption counselors had explained the differences between their color and the cat’s color. Using the cat’s assessment and the adopter survey to set the adopter’s expectations for the cat he or she selected helps make these adoptions successful.
Photo Credit: cat © Maggie Swanson