Below is the script from the presentation I gave at the WA Cat Welfare Symposium last month. :)
Hi and thanks so much for the opportunity to present here today! I’m Shel and I’m the Top Dog at PetRescue. PetRescue is a not-for-profit organisation that supports more than 1,000 Australian pounds, shelters and rescue groups. We provide programs and services which help improve animal adoption awareness, increase adoption rates and make it easy for potential adopters to find and save a rescue pet. We’re best known for our website, PetRescue.com.au which is the largest online, searchable. directory of rescue pets in Australia. Access is free to all animal welfare organisations looking to promote their pets.
And this year, we saw the adoption of PetRescues’ 100,000th pet. A cat named Banks from NSW.
BANKS in his new home – cared for by the Sydney Dogs and Cats Home
There is a perception in Australia, that cats aren’t liked. The truth is, while there are a few vocal cat haters out there, the majority of people feel a huge amount of compassion for cats in the community.
- IBIS World industry figures from 2009, show Australian’s spend $1.4 BILLION dollars on cat care annually.
- In WA alone, we spend $1.34 MILLION dollars each year caring for our feline companions.
- According to the latest Australian figures, 91% of pet owners report feeling ‘very close’ to their pet, reinforcing that pets are an integral member of the family.
- While 50% of Australian owners will get their cat a Christmas present this year.
Rather than convince people to like cats, it’s THESE people who already identify as cat lovers who are our audience.
And there are a lot of cat lovers out there.
According to the Australian Companion Animal Council, there are around 230,000 owned cats living in WA. That’s one owned cat for every 10 people.
That 1 in 10, can be engaged to help our mission by: replacing their cats when they pass away (adoptions), sharing their experiences to the benefits of cat ownership (social proof), supporting our organisations (volunteerism, donations) and helping to protect cats in the community (advocacy).
Today my presentation is on the awesomeness of cats and how we can improve outcomes for homeless animals, based on two pretty simply opportunities.
1. The internet loves cats
2. The community loves cats
One day the internet will be more than a place to post a tribute to your cat. But thankfully that day isn’t today. If you haven’t noticed, cats are big on the Internet. Even though the occasional panda, gets a slice of the viral action, cats are, and always have been, the stars online.
This is Maru – the worlds most famous cat. He has a website and a YouTube channel and some of his videos have been viewed more than 20 million times.
But it’s more than just the ‘cute factor’. Although many online hits are cute or funny – there are just as many that portray cats as sinister creatures, plotting against man. Cats inspire awe. They are enigmatic. They have a hint of the danger about them. And they’re often seen on the laps and laptops of professionals and geeks. Cats are the perfect vehicle for Internet humor because with their expressive face.and gestures they are a great canvas for human emotion, captioning and anthropomorphising.
Simon’s Cat is another internet sensation. Simon is an English animator who shares his life with four cats; Hugh, Maisy, Jess and Teddy. This video was his for YouTube hit and has been viewed 30 million times.
Okay, they’re all a lot of fun, but the big question is…
How to harness it?
The easiest way to bring some of this internet love to your cats is through web videos.
This trend towards seeing cats as being a geeky-funky indoor and easy care pet, has had a huge influence on how people are seeing them in the community. There is a new kind of cat owner and the influence is decidedly male.
The Top 10 Ways to Upgrade Your Cat’s Life is an article by the decidedly geeky Lifehackers site. Geeks love cats. In fact, too much cat geek is never enough…
Modern guys like cats;
Will Anderson has been a huge support of cat welfare groups and a promoter of cats as pets. Wil has three adopted cats – Tip, Diego and Ziggy – and says that the adoption process was easy. “Going through an organisation like PetRescue means you can be confident your pet will be healthy and have all its shots and they only match people with pets that suit their needs.”
Russell Brand is also a well known cat lover (video NSFW):
While this video shows the depth of guys-who-love-cats attraction:
Here is another example where our love of cats has shone.
Since the 1980s, the area around the historic inner Sydney suburb of Newtown has had works of graffiti and street art placed on local walls.
When a graffiti artist drew about 50 cats on walls throughout Newtown, they were so popular with the community, they spawned a book entitled ‘The Stripey Street Cat’. The book which is about a cat’s intrepid journey through the streets to find a missing friend, is features 19 colour photographs of the cats taken by the author.
Back to the US now, for an example of a rescue group harnessing the community’s love of cats.
For the past six years, Macy’s department store has helped the San Fransico SPCA connect with potential adopters through an innovative Christmas campaign.
Through the months of November and December, animals are showcased to the public in comfortable, climate controlled displays as part of the Macy’s holiday windows.
Voted “One of the ten best places to press your nose” by USA TODAY, this tradition is one of the most beloved symbols of the holiday spirit in San Francisco. Last year, about 300 animals featured in Macy’s holiday windows found new homes from the adoption center on the Main Floor and more than $70,000 in donations was raised for the SF SPCA. All together more than 2,000 animals have been placed through the program. (See more pics here)
In WA, based roughly on the number of cats who pass away naturally, there are between 10 and 15,000 homes opening each year with loving owners looking to replace their cat. While some are already committed to getting one from another source like a breeder, if we can influence just some of the others to adopt their next cat – we CAN save every adoptable animal.
And that is simply the organic numbers. This doesn’t include people who are getting a cat for the first time. Or people returning to cat ownership after a break. Or people expanding from a single to a multi-cat household. Or people who’d be willing to care for a community cat. Or temporary homes that would foster a cat for a time.
This idea that there are too many healthy, friendly cats and not enough homes, simply doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. Especially when you start to see what kind of success other communities are having using innovative adoption promotions.
Hold a ‘free’ cat adoption event
Free cat adoption has had enormous success overseas, resulting in dramatically increased adoption rates.
- Johnson County, Kansas did a summer promotion of ‘free’ cats & doubled their adoptions.
- The Humane Society of Boulder Valley enjoyed its largest adoption day ever, which was also the first day they ever offered free adoptions for cats and kittens. In a single day, they placed 117 animals.
- New Zealand SPCA offered ‘free-feline Friday’. Their offices were flooded with prospective owners on Friday morning and by Friday afternoon 150 kittens were adopted. Fosterers were bringing in kittens to meet demand.
- 41 shelters and rescue groups got together for the Maddies Matchmaker Adoptathon, offering free pet adoption. 1,500 pets were rehomed in a single weekend.
- Nevada Humane Society US, have been using ‘free’ in their adoption mix since 2007 and now rehome more than 1,000 pets a month.
- The ASPCA are now officially recommending ‘fee waived’ programs as a technique for increasing cat adoption.
And now we have know that ‘free’ works in Australia also.
- In February this year RSPCA NSW ran a price based campaign. They began with a call to action;
“(we) are overwhelmed by the sheer number of cats and kittens that need homes or face being euthanased. In a desperate attempt to save as many feline lives as possible, the organisation is waiving cat adoption fees at five locations throughout the state.”
Instead of an ‘adoption fee’ new owners simply had to buy a $60 pack of cat goodies from their online store. On the *very first day* of their 5 day ‘free’ cat adoption promo, the RSPCA NSW has issued this notice on their FB page…
“UPDATE: Please bear with us. We are overwhelmed with the response & we thank everyone for their support. Our facilities are very busy at present and your patience and understanding is appreciated”
The campaign was an overwhelming success, finding homes for over 500 cats in five days. They’ve since adopted a similar campaign which extended to cover all animals at all RSPCA NSW shelters state-wide.
- In November last year, the RSPCA Victoria offered three days of free cat adoptions and extended trading hours.
Cat lovers swamped the organisation’s shelters, taking advantage of the twilight adoption hours. Between Thursday and Saturday (3 days) 110 cats found new homes. And why didn’t they adopt more?
They ran out of cats
Every cat older than four months found favour with a new owner offering a home. The shelter’s nine Victorian catteries were emptied for the first time, ever.
According to the New Zealand ‘Saving Lives’ program, where this has been practiced, it has been noted that these kinds of adoption events can account for between 20% and 40% of total adoptions, and accordingly are well worth the effort.
So that’s it from me.
I hope this has provided some inspiration for your cat promotions and adoptions today. Feel free to come speak to me either after the event, or contact me through the PetRescue website, if you would like any more information on the things I’ve presented here today.
Thanks very much!