What you may not know about the Million Cat Challenge initiatives

February 1, 2017

The Million Cat Challenge is based on five key initiatives that have been developed and implemented by animal shelters across North America. While the initiatives themselves have been widely adopted and proven successful, we’re glad they’re still the subject of many of your questions — we never get tired of looking for answers!

1. Do we have to use all the initiatives to participate in the Challenge?

The five key initiatives are designed to work together, each playing a specific role in a lifesaving system. Not all shelters need each initiative, nor is it mandatory that you adopt, or even have the intention of adopting, all five of the initiatives to be
in the Million Cat Challenge.

2. Which initiative comes first?

That’s really up to you and what your shelter needs – the initiatives were designed so you can start anywhere and build from there.

That said, while all the initiatives, implemented in any order, will save lives and boost morale, our consulting work shows one initiative stands out as a good foundation for all the rest: Capacity for Care (C4C).

No matter your shelter’s philosophy, size, resources or location, we can all agree that cats should be safe and comfortable for however long they are in our care.

C4C is a process of examining your shelter’s ability to provide humane care, meet cats’ physical and mental needs, and allow staff the time to do their jobs well. It involves providing great housing to every cat, along with calculating your organization’s “magic number,” which is how many cats you can humanely care for on a daily basis. Once you’ve identified this number, you can start prioritizing your shelter’s operations and programs to achieve it.

Although it’s difficult for some people to understand when they’re first exposed to this initiative, Capacity for Care is not reached by reducing the number of cats your shelter can help throughout the year; in fact, it increases that number. That’s because healthy, happy cats move through the shelter to live outcomes more quickly.

The effects are cascading: By reducing how long each cat is in your shelter, you make room for animals to come through your system faster. By reducing the number on hand at any one time, you lower costs <http://millioncatchallenge.org/resources/webinars/saving-and-making-money-using-the-five-million-cat-challenge-initiatives/>. By reducing costs, you free up resources to expand your programs and assist those cats who need extra time or care.

As a bonus, C4C isn’t only good for cats. It also provides a more welcoming environment for volunteers, adopters, and supporters.

3. What comes next?

This will vary from shelter to shelter and community to community. While every shelter needs to calculate its capacity for care, not every initiative is needed in every shelter.

For example, by beginning to proactively implement a program of Managed Admission to your shelter, you can spread the flow of animals out more appropriately, thus remaining within your capacity for care.

By implementing Alternatives to Intake, you serve your community, keep pets with the families who love them, save the lives of kittens and other vulnerable cats, and divert pets who would otherwise enter your shelter.

The last two initiatives, Removing Barriers to Adoption and Return to Field (RTF), approach the other end of the flow: outcome. They help you increase the number of quality adoptions, reunite lost cats with their families more efficiently and quickly, and provide lifesaving solutions for community cats.

Whichever initiatives are right for your shelter, and in whatever order you implement them, they’re all designed to allow you to pull different levers to achieve and maintain your optimal state of lifesaving for the cats in your care.

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