Meet Cat Town’s Program Manager

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2020 4 Dilara Staff ShellyWaldman 3

My certification as a cat behavior consultant (through the IAABC-International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants) requires me to keep my learning current with CEU’s and be science-based. This field is notoriously easy to exploit as there is currently no regulation. Once we settle into our new roles, I would love to standardize more of our behavior protocols, as well as increase educational opportunities for fosters, volunteers, adopters, and the community at large. Helping people understand and appreciate cats has always been a priority for me, and something I genuinely enjoy. Andrew and I have also discussed tracking and analyzing data that would not only benefit Cat Town but also other organizations that want to help the cats who need it most. Having the time and resources to work on such an important project would be incredibly exciting.

In addition, actively working towards true inclusivity — researching what measures we can take to be more accessible and welcoming of diversity across all programs — has been a top goal for me as an animal welfare professional. As a Turkish-Armenian American, I am acutely aware of how communities can co-exist yet also have rifts that require effort — not just words, but actions — to heal. Cats and cafes are a common love for so many, globally, and seeing Cat Town’s community grow to be even more diverse and inclusive is a dream of mine.

You were one of the earliest people to work with Cat Town on our Forgotten Kitten Project, helping document its success (and revealing just how many scared kittens “graduate early” from the program, needing very little support once you get them out of a cage). Do you have any dreams for how Cat Town can continue to support overlooked cats in new ways?

Yes! I have always had a soft spot for under-socialized kittens. Some years before the founding of Cat Town, I created a program for socializing feral kittens, including older ones at the SFSPCA, where we leveraged both foster homes and adoption center housing and “behavior program volunteers” (this behavior program, incidentally, was the impetus for Cat Town’s founder, Ann, reaching out to my partnership, Feline Minds, way back when!).

Cat Town’s focus has historically been on adult cats and kittens over 4 months of age, as they are “forgotten” by other organizations. However, a number of kittens come into OAS at a younger age — 10 to 12 weeks old — but are neither transferred to other organizations nor adopted, and so stay in the shelter for a month or more. I have some ideas for collaborations between OAS and Cat Town to address these “pre-FKP” kittens.

I’m also excited to explore options for cats who have ringworm — we would need a serious educational/media campaign, as well as training and ongoing support for foster homes — but it is a real need for OAS and thus for our community, and could be ground-breaking.

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