In January 2017 Open Paw for Cats launched at NAWT in our Watford Centre. The programme has already been a roaring success and meeting the feline residents at NAWT is becoming a very exciting experience.
Visitors are encouraged to feed the cats and, as a result, many of our residents are becoming more confident and welcoming to people entering the cattery. Two of our five centres have successfully introduced Open Paw for Cats, with our other centres to follow soon. Here are a couple of success stories from our pilot centre.
Apollo was just 7 months old when he arrived at our Watford centre as a stray. It soon became clear he was incredibly under socialised, making cattery life a stressful experience for him.
Since Apollo arrived and following the introduction of Open Paw for Cats, he has become much more sociable, and all the staff feel he would blossom in the right home.
One of the first steps in the Open Paw programme is for passing staff, volunteers and visitors to feed the cats via chutes on the pen door, known as feeding stations, so the cats begin to see people coming and going throughout the day as an exciting thing and a promise for tasty treats! Using food to create positive associations with people means Apollo will now approach people that visit his pen rather than hide away. One of the other changes Open Paw has brought to the cattery is the permanent addition of the cat carrier. Most cats hide away at the sight of a carrier, after all it would normally only come out for a dreaded vet visit! However, with Apollo’s increasing confidence in people, and the positive association with the cat carrier as a permanent fixture, staff are now able to handle Apollo for a weekly weigh in and health check, which would have been impossible when he first arrived.
With his newfound confidence, Apollo has been making up for all the kitten fun he missed out on in early life. These days, you will often hear a crash and see a flash of black as Apollo races around his pen knocking over anything in his path. To help keep him entertained and mentally stimulated we have been using interactive feeders to channel his energy.
Apollo still has his quiet moments but he finally enjoys human interaction, playing with toys and having a fuss made of him. Now he just needs to be patient as he waits for a quiet forever home with experienced owners who are home most of the day.
Chan, a 13-year-old longhaired black cat who had been in the care of the Hertfordshire Centre since February 2016, took really well to the changes in the cattery when Open Paw arrived.
Chan found herself in the care of NAWT when her owner sadly passed away and her family were not in the position to take her in. Much like Apollo, Chan found it difficult to settle in to cattery life. She was used to having her owners’ undivided attention and unlimited access to the outdoors, and for reasons unknown to her, she was suddenly without an owner and surrounded by other cats.
Although staff did everything they could to make Chan feel at home and relaxed, she would often spend her days curled up in the bed at the back of her pen, away from people.
Chan’s age and colour already put her in the “hard-to-home” category and her aloofness towards potential adopters didn’t help.
Staff and Volunteers were desperate to find Chan a loving home to see out the rest of her days in and thankfully, the introduction of Open Paw was finally the answer they’d been searching for. Chan’s behaviour improved noticeably. Regular interaction with staff, volunteers and visitors as they dropped treats into her pen meant Chan no longer saw people, or the environment she was in, as something to be scared of. The minute she figured out that people meant food; she ventured out of her bed and came to the front of the pen to greet any passers-by with a happy purr.
Another positive change for Chan that came with the introduction of Open Paw was her feeding routine. Since first arriving at the centre Chan had always been difficult to feed. Cats have the stereotype of being fussy eaters but often when it occurs in catteries, it is due to stress.
One of the new practices that began with Open Paw was interactive feeding. Food bowls were thrown away and in their place, we introduced the No Bowl Feeding System. An innovative product that was kindly donated to us; the No Bowls are cylindrical containers with holes in, which you fill with kibble and hide for the cats to hunt. Upon discovery, the cats bat and play with the NoBowls using their paws and the food falls out. Due to Chan’s eating history, the staff did not expect much when they put the first NoBowl in her pen for breakfast but by the end of the day, she was a pro.
Chan’s previous owners’ family had stated that she was a skilled hunter and one of the benefits of the interactive feeders is that it channels a cats natural hunting instincts. Multiple NoBowls would be hidden around her pen and she would have to “hunt” them out. This aspect of Open Paw gave her mental stimulation that she would otherwise not have received and improved her temperament to the point that she caught the eye of a family who went on to give her a loving home almost a year after her search began.
Everyone at NAWT is extremely proud of what Open Paw has achieved and we are thrilled that it’s helping us to rehome cats like Apollo and Chan sooner. If you are local to one of our centres, please visit and see Open Paw in action! Our Amazon Wish Lists are full of items that are used for Open Paw, please take a look and consider treating one of our animals.