We believe that cats are valuable, lovable and trainable, not disposable. At Happy Cats Haven, no healthy or treatable cat is euthanized, which means we meet the definition of a no-kill organization and exceed that of socially conscious sheltering. To date, we have never euthanized for behavioral issues.
Although we are not mandated to take in every cat (open admission), on average 20% of our cats are higher-risk like orphans, seniors and special needs, both health and behavior.
More important than definitions, we back up this commitment by treating our cats as individuals—with respect, compassion and positive reinforcement—to make their stay as Fear Free as possible until they are adopted. As a fully Feline Friendly shelter, we focus on healing their trauma, so they have the best possible chance of getting—and staying—adopted.
Imagine bringing your own sweet and loving cat to a conventional shelter. Research proves that, in the first several days, even the best cat expert won’t be able to tell your cat from a completely unsocialized, feral cat. Both will probably be either cowering or frozen in fear, overwhelmed by the new sights, sounds and smells of their new situation. This can make cats appear unadoptable and put them at risk for euthanasia.
Since we opened in 2011, Happy Cats Haven has been committed to reducing the fear in our shelter cats to get them–and keep them!–more adoptable. It’s all about making the cats feel safe.
Happy Cats Haven is now officially Fear Free Certified. This program was started to make sure that the emotional well-being of pets is taken care of, along with their health. Five members of the Happy Cats team are certified in Fear Free Handling and we teach it to all of our staff and volunteers. This is an expansion of what we’ve taught all along, honing our skills and helping us to better care for our cats.
We build our Feline Friendly handling on our Five Cat Wishes, five ways that all cats wish their people would treat them:
- Respect their body language. Cats can be subtle communicators, but they will always tell you what they are thinking with their behavior if you pay attention.
- Offer choices without forcing. Being closer to the wild state than dogs, cats especially respond to letting them choose their actions as much as possible.
- Always connect with their names. This is especially important in a shelter where their name may be their last connection to their former family.
- Reward, reward, reward. Keeping every interaction as positive as possible means a stronger bond with their humans.
- See the world through their eyes. Probably the most important principle, this one helps us to empathize with what our cats go through to live with us unpredictable humans!
Basic shelter care should always be based on the Five Freedoms:
- Freedom from Hunger and Thirst – by ready access to fresh water and a feline appropriate diet to maintain full health and vigor.
- Freedom from Discomfort – by providing a feline appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area.
- Freedom from Pain, Injury or Disease – by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment.
- Freedom to Express Normal Behavior – by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of other matched cats and kittens.
- Freedom from Fear and Distress – by ensuring conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering.
Our colony rooms were designed to the standards of the UC Davis Koret Shelter Medicine Program and the Colorado State Agriculture Department to provide these freedoms to the best of our ability. Our staff is committed to consistent monitoring and learning about our individual cats to make their stay at Happy Cats as humane, brief and (yes) happy as possible.
Per shelter medicine guidelines, we no longer test kittens or indoor cats for Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) and Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV). However we do still test cats thought to be high risk for these diseases: intact cats with a history of being outside and cats with poor body condition, lethargy or dental issues.
In a lot of shelters, FeLV+ cats or kittens would be euthanized even when otherwise healthy. Even though their lifespans may be shorter as a result of FeLV, we believe they deserve a happy, normal life. We know there are loving adopters out there just waiting for these affectionate cats to purr their way into their lives.
FeLV+ cats or kittens are confirmed with multiple tests and are housed in foster care until adoption. Although the risk is low, FeLV can be transmitted to other cats, so if you already have cats, it’s recommended you talk with your veterinarian about vaccinating them against FeLV.
We also accept FIV+ cats, confirming with multiple tests, as well as providing a blood panel for their baseline health. Well-nurtured cats with FIV can live near-normal lives, so we recommend retesting according to AAFP guidelines and offer counseling for those who test positive.