Today's volunteer training session at the shelter was more hands-on. Our shelter has two types of housing for the animals. The "luxury suites" are the indoor multi-cat rooms that have a cat perch or maybe a donated living room chair, cat beds, scratchers, and toys. They have the pretty towels & beds, and a regular litter box. This is "marketing" to make people comfortable coming to the shelter and see cats in relatively low-stress living conditions. But the majority of cats are housed in stainless steel cages. There's one adult cat or multiple kittens per cage. Each cat cage is a cube about 3 feet on each side. There are three compartments, each with its own front door, and holes where the cats pass from compartment to compartment. The larger side has a little upstairs shelf. The narrower side has upper and lower decks. The upper deck is for resting/hiding, the lower deck is for the cardboard litter tray. I'll try to get a photo, but the drawing below gives you an idea of what each cage looks like.
[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="86" caption="Cage drawing"][/caption]
Today we learned how the cages are "refreshed", which is different than being cleaned. The cages are thoroughly cleaned each weekday morning, and sanitized if needed. Refreshing a cage inclues:
- Cleaning the litter box. This doesn't mean cleaning like you or I would clean the box at home. I call my cats' litter box their zen garden. It gets scooped three times a day and cleaned immediately if I see they've used it. The sides get wiped with a disinfetant wipe, and the litter gets raked smooth. But at the shelter the litter box is a thin, collapsable cardboard tray. And you don't scoop & toss litter because litter costs money, and the shelter has an impossibly tight budget. Instead, you pick out any solid waste and dirty litter, saving as much as possible for reuse. Also, there can't be much more than a single layer of litter pellets covering the bottom box because that would be wasteful. And if the cardboard litter tray is wet with urine but isn't falling apart, it stays in the cage until the morning cleaning.
- Replacing the wet or dirty newspaper or towel that lines the cage floor.
- If the cat has a little bed, making sure it's clean or replacing it with a clean one.
- Refilling water bowls and making sure the bowl is clean.
- Adding a little extra dry food to a food tray if there are several kittens in a cage or if a cat looks a little thin.
- Wiping the cage and removing obvious dirt and litter dust.
After each cage was clean, we spent a little time giving the cats some attention. Mostly we were cleaning cages overflowing with kittens, and they all wanted lots of cuddling and attention. Unfortunately, there wasn't enough time to let the kittens play in the adjacent room where they would visit with a potential adopter. After sweeping the floor and puting the dirty towels in a pile for transport to the laundry, it was off to the next room of cages.
Two of us refreshed about 24 cages in about 1-1/2 hours. Then we learned how to use the commercial laundry machines and took a peek at one of the momma kitties and her three kittens. They're very cute now that their eyes have opened. At my visit last weekend I counted about 6 kittens, so several did not survive.
On a very positive note, we did watch our trainer counsel a couple who were adopting a cute orange kitten. Our trainer was very happy because the kitten was one that she had been fostering.
This week was another eye-opening experience just like last week. Our shelter is new, and first-class in terms of modern sheltering. But this is no luxury hotel. The cats are well cared for in terms of food, water, litter, and safety. But it's a stressful way for the animals to live. It will be difficult to remain a bit detatched from all their cute little faces and reaching paws. But if they weren't sheltered, they wouldn't have the possibility of finding a new home.
Spay & Neuter graphic courtesy Tangri Adapt A Rescue