Shelters are so often bursting with cats that visitors who have every intention of adopting might find the sheer numbers overwhelming to the point that they go home empty-handed.
The ASPCA's Less Is More research tests the hypothesis that decreasing the number of cats available on the adoption floor might increase the likelihood that a potential adopter makes a choice and goes home with a cat.
How It Began
The ASPCA tested this hypothesis at Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region (HSPPR), a large open admission facility in Colorado. We began by calculating the agency's transition rate (the number of cats adopted v. the number of people who came in the door saying they were coming to look at cats).
For two weeks in October 2010, HSPPR staff conducted brief greeter surveys asking visitors what brought them to the shelter.
- HSPPR kept track of the responses and compared them to the daily adoption logs to find out how many visitors actually adopted cats.
- By dividing the adoptions by the number of people who came in the door to look at cats, HSPPR established its transition rate for cats.
In early December 2010, the staff covered a portion of the cat cages on the adoption floor with attractive wraps to reduce the visible cats by 40% without reducing the number of cats being housed in the shelter. The staff then calculated the transition rate for another two-week period.
The ASPCA provided the HSPPR with a research and development consultant to help with the data collection and analysis. We also provided a grant to hire temporary staff to help with the surveys.
We expected to see a small increase in transition rate, but were amazed when we learned that the transition rate had more than doubled.
- Although fewer people came in to the shelter in December (traditionally a slower month for many organizations), total cat adoptions increased.
- More than twice the number of people who came in the door to look at cats actually walked out the door with new pets.
It might seem counterintuitive, but limiting the number of animals shown on the adoption floor works. Fewer visible cats means more adoptions. Showing fewer cats at a time does not mean that you limit the number of adoptable cats. You can have cats "in the wings" to move to the visible adoption floor as soon as cages become available.