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The research and development process that culminated in the development of the Meet your Match: Feline-ality Adoption program had three phases:
- Phase I—Cats with Guardians
- Phase II—Shelter Cats
- Phase III—Matching Cats with Adopters
The following five shelters served as research sites:
- Animal Refuge League, Westbrook, ME
- Animal Welfare Association, Voorhees, NJ
- Hamilton-Burlington SPCA, Burlington, Ontario, Canada
- Humane Society of Boulder Valley, Boulder, CO
- Kansas Humane Society, Wichita, KS
Phase I—Cats with Guardians
We wanted to see if we could accurately predict how a cat was likely to behave in the home based on the cat's responses to assessment items completed at a boarding facility. We compared cats' behavior at the boarding facility with their guardians' reports of behavior in the home. We found correlations between behavior in the assessment environment (the boarding facility) and home report regarding:
- social interaction,
- reaction to novel stimuli,
- interaction with toys, and
- behavior with children and others.
Phase II—Shelter Cats
Based on the results of Phase I, we modified both the assessment and the data card. Two shelters—Animal Refuge League (Westbrook, ME) and Wisconsin Humane Society (Milwaukee, WI)—served as Phase II research sites.
We found that many behaviors seemed stable when the cat was moved from one environment (the shelter) to a new environment (the home). For example, cats who vocalized during certain assessment items were likely to be 'talkative' in the home. Further, we found certain aspects of social interaction with the evaluator were also experienced in the home by the new adopter.
Phase III—Matching Cats with Adopters
Now that we had a tool to assess certain feline behaviors, we tested several other components. Our goal was to complete the development of a Meet your Match Cat Adopter Survey that would identify expectations and lifestyles in order to make the best adoption matches. We examined the following questions:
- Could we interact with the adopter in a fun and meaningful way to help guide and educate them to make a good match?
- Do adopters like the process and would they return to a Meet your Match shelter?
- Is this program realistic for shelters to implement?
The five research sites found the following results:
- The Adopter Experience: Not all adopters went home with the perfect match. The conversation and information received from the adoption counselor gave adopters the info they needed to modify their expectations and increase the likelihood of a successful match. Nearly all adopters surveyed said they would probably select a shelter that used the Meet Your Match Adoption program when adopting an animal in the future.
- The Shelter Experience: Shelter personnel from executive directors through kennel staff were enthusiastic about the Feline-ality program. Adoption counselors especially noted that the process improved communications with adopters, resulting in more successful cat adoptions.
- Shelter Statistics: Our five research sites found decreases in euthanasia, length of stays, and return rates, as well as significant increases in adoptions when fully implementing Feline-ality.