Put a hole in it: How to save up to $120K a year 

March 7, 2018

When implemented in your shelter, the Five Key Initiatives will save cats’ lives. Each initiative is part of the larger design that makes up the Million Cat Challenge, but considered individually, there are no slouches in the lineup. Capacity for Care, the heartbeat of the Challenge, is a proven effective shelter management model in its own right. Likewise, we know reducing intake is the single most effective way to reduce euthanasia: Guide your community to interventions before an animal ever reaches your door and you will certainly save lives.  

While your successes are well documented (as if one million more cats fiercely lounging about leaving cat hair on your yoga pants weren’t proof enough!), a secondary, less-discussed benefit is the cost savings associated with each initiative. The truth is, we could have made a typo and this could easily have been called the Million Cash Challenge! 

In one of your all-time favorite webinars, Saving and Making Money Using the Million Cat Challenge Initiatives, Barbara Carr, former Executive Director of SPCA Serving Erie County, breaks down exactly how much time and resources were saved (and reinvested) by implementing each of the initiatives. Some of the examples are mind-blowing—participants in that webinar wrote us afterwards saying how eye-opening it was to put dollars and cents next to outdated practices that were producing little to no yield (looking at you, Barriers to Adoption). Equally as interesting was the savings realized with a few tweaks to protocol (spoiler alert: Shelter Neuter Return is a million-dollar idea).  

How to reduce your number of care days in one year by 11,636
Among the savings listed, Carr credits over $120,000 to portals alone. You read that right—in just one year, the money saved from doubling feline housing size was more than the median price of a human house in Little Rock, Arkansas.  

How? Keep cats comfortable and they stay healthy and move through your shelter faster. Optimizing length of stay (LOS) at Carr’s shelter led to a reduction in care days—11,636 in one year, to be exact. She estimates each cat costs roughly $10 a day in food, litter and staff time.  

In that same year, URI dropped by more than 100 cases, further reducing care days and medical costs. (By now, you know the prescription for URI is a portal. If you don’t, you can watch here and read here.) 

SPCA Serving Erie County is just one in a chorus of shelters singing about the savings that portals and humane housing bring:
–  Edmonton Humane Society reports over a thousand dollars in savings a month just on litter and food.
– After portalizing, Dubuque Regional Humane Society saved over 40k in one year by reducing LOS and euthanasia costs.   

Can we guess what some of you may be thinking?  “Sure, some of the savings might be attributed to healthier animals and less care days, but I bet a big part of this is the fact that you are cutting your cages in half. So you’re only caring for half as many cats!” 

And to that we say…NOPE! We have yet to hear of a single shelter that was unable to serve the same number of animals after portalizing as they were before. In fact, as Dr. Cristie Kamiya of Humane Society Silicone Valley put it, “Our staff was worried about decreasing our housing capacity, but what actually happened was a drastic increase in our lifesaving capacity.” 

These graphs provided by Cat Adoption Team (CAT) in Oregon echo Dr. Kamiya’s findings.   After implementing Capacity for Care and portilizing their shelter, CAT continues to see falling LOS despite an increase in harder-to-place animals, such as seniors and FIV+ cats.  

karen green 3 karen green karen green2

 The proof is in the pudding. CAT dropped their length of stay and increased adoptions after “cutting their cat housing space in half” 

The dipstick for cat health (thanks for the visual, Dr. Oz)
Dr. Oz famously said the penis is a dipstick for male health. Erectile dysfunction is usually a sign of many more breakdowns in the male body, all of which are harder to see. That’s how we think about URI. When we don’t honor the Five Freedoms, there’s a breakdown in our system that’s not only bad for the animals, but terrible for our bottom line. A broken system is expensive. Give cats a little more room to breathe, let them lounge and display normal behaviors in an area that is separate from where they go to the restroom, and watch the whole system magically start flowing smooth and fast. 

Happy cat = Happy shelter.  

Now that is something to get excited about.  

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