The Gifford Feline Charm School is a socialization program that was started to help some of our undersocialized cats become more used to human touch and interaction so that they can be more easily adopted into a permanent home.
It was initially based on a program developed by Best Friends Animal Society, and modified by Gifford, that works by rewarding positive behavior (such as allowing petting or brushing, or coming out to play with people) with a treat.
The techniques are based on routine, repetition, and slow and gentle persuasion, and have led to progressions over time for all the Charm School cats!
Volunteers use toys, petting and brushing tools, and quiet talking, to get the cats to momentarily forget about their fear of people and use their natural instinct to chase and catch. These techniques allow the cats to associate people with positive activities, and we have watched Feline Charm school cats slowly overcome their reluctance to approach volunteers and staff (rather than hide) and actually look forward to having visitors!
A core group of volunteers work regularly with the cats and record their observations, to better understand what is working best for each cat and to track both positive and negative behaviors, with the goal of finding the best approach for each cat.
There are currently 10 “graduates” from the Feline Charm School since the program was started, that have all been adopted into permanent homes! We regularly receive updates from their adopters that they are loving and delightful additions to their homes and, as their adopters continue to work with them, they are responding well and showing continued progress!
It takes a special, patient adopter to see the potential in these cats and to give them a chance at having their own forever home. Adopters and volunteers have found that working with a shy cat and seeing small but significant progress every day is an incredibly rewarding experience!
Adopting a cat in need of specialized behavioral care and attention is truly a selfless act. We are grateful to those individuals who understand their needs and are willing to dedicate their time and lifelong patience, giving these cats a second chance at a wonderful life and home outside of the shelter.