Animals or Angels of Comfort – Part 2 Success!
by Zachariah Atteberry
As of today, I have been working at my local animal shelter for nine months. I have only missed one day of work so far this year. My responsibilities include sanitizing the main cat room, cat shed and cat roaming room.
In addition I clean dishes, sweep and mop the cat room floors, and take out the cat room trash. On rare occasions I clean the dog kennels to stay updated on the cleaning method. I work all days of the week, four hours a day. My goal for the next year is to obtain a full time working position. If I was to be earn a full time working position, I would acquire several more responsibilities such as; answering phone calls, adopting out animals, talking to customers and giving basic vaccinations.
I have communicated to my boss that I am eager to go full time and that I am completely open to learning all that is necessary for me to be successful as a full time worker. So far I have been taught to do several basic tasks that an assistant would do in a veterinary hospital and some basic paper work.
Last week I administered a cat Corid (a substance that prevents infection by a single-celled protozoa called coccidia). I was permitted to draw the liquid out of the bottle, measure it, and administer it orally to a cat that was sick with toxicity. I also very recently had the privilege to give a cat a shot. It was a new experience to me. I did not poke myself or the boss, and I did get it in, I just pushed a little too hard. In the next few months I will get it down. Practice makes perfect.
One part of my job that I prize most preciously is my role as cat volunteer trainer. I train all new volunteers and community service individuals that are assigned to clean the cat section. I take this role very seriously. I make sure that all the windows are void of any snot or cat litter, the sides and bottom are clean, and the cage gate washed of any feces. Food and water bowls are sprayed and cleaned thoroughly with mint disinfectant and paper towels. Cat toys or accessories are placed back in the same cage. Litter boxes are scooped of urine and feces, completely being swapped out if the litter box is too filthy to be used again.
Covers are evaluated on their overall condition. If covers are covered in tons of cat hair, urine or feces, the cover is completely replaced. If the cover is in decent condition then it can be reused (this is good for a new cat who depends on scent for comfort). While inoculations such as the FVRCP (rhinotracheitis, calicivirus, panleukemia) are effective in containing the disease, immunity is never one-hundred percent.
It is important that precautions are followed to avoid contamination. The DHLPPC (the dog six-way vaccine) covers distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, parvovirus, Para influenza, and coronavirus. And with as many dogs that catch the parvovirus every year, the vaccine is vital for puppies.
I often capitalize on the idea that cats need to be handled in the way they prefer - not the way we prefer. (The same can go for dogs, though aggressive dogs do need to be handled in a way that ultimately protects the person handling them.) I show people the handling method that is most comfortable to the cat, and least likely to elicit an injury as a result of miscommunication.
This method implies that the cat is carried out hindquarters first so that they are not introduced to a new environment too fast. I enforce sanitation rules strictly. Upper respiratory infections in cats are commonly spread by fomites and by air. A fomite is any inanimate object that can hold an infectious agent.
I have come up with a ping pong method to assure sanitizer use, and to make certain that proper protocols are followed. I place ping pong balls on all the sanitizer bottles and monitor them. If the balls are removed then the bottles are being used. If the balls are not removed, I say something. I also make sure that the animals are treated fairly. It is my obligation to speak up when someone doesn't respect the animals or does not clean a cage properly.
I am appreciative that I am trusted with cleaning the feral cat cages. Feral cats and cats that are brought in by animal control are kept in the cat shed. After seven days the cats are moved inside for a health check and then placed into adoption.
If no room is present, and the cat is healthy, they are placed in isolation cages until room is available in the adoption room. Since I constantly brush up on cat behavior, I can accurately judge how a cat is going to react based on a specific situation.
I normally survey the cat's behavior (eyes, tail, and body gestures) and I make a cleaning decision based on the overall message. If the cat is scared and anxious, I clean the cage with the cat in it for the first week. The first few times I move the cat I place my hand over the cat's eyes so that they get used to be moved one step a time. If the cat is indeed feral or wild, I clean the cage with the cat in it at all times.
Feral cats can be dangerous if they get loose. I wear a pair of gloves and use a steel bar to pull the food bowl, water bowl, and litter box towards the opening of the cage. I continue to pull the tray out from under the cat so that it can be sanitized. When removing the bowls and litter box, it is important that I proceed with caution.
I sanitize the tray, clean and fill the bowls, clean the litter box, and set up a new cover on the tray. I insert the tray back into the cage and use the rod to push it all the way to the back. Quickly, I set the litter box and bowls in the front of the cage.
For cages on the top that have no supports, the tray cannot be easily as removed and various tactics can be utilized to clean the cage without removing or upsetting the cat. The steel rod is a very useful tool when used humanely. In fact, it is a good idea to rub your scent on it and slowly pet the cat after time has been allotted for the cat to acclimate.
I am not talking about a huge rod; I am talking about a very skinny one that has a small, dull hook specifically made for pulling small objects. While a majority of the cats are more scared than anything, safety has to be assured for myself as well as the cats. When cats show signs of being more sociable and even allowing a basic petting session, efforts are made to adopt out the cat.
I have actively been taking pictures of all the adoptable cats, and a friend of mine snaps pictures of the dogs. I created a Facebook page for this purpose. Since starting this page and posting pictures, more animals are getting adopted and more people are becoming aware about adoption opportunities.
The humane society Facebook page has garnered over two-hundred members and three thousand weekly page views since the initial creation of the page in October of 2011. We have also erected a cat roaming room which houses multiple cats in an effort to get them adopted faster. The cat roaming room is made up of a rocking chair; several screen doors and a window, and several tiered shelves for effective cat roaming and exploration. Cats in the cat roaming room are sterilized before being placed into the cat roaming room.
Recently I have decided to end job coach services. Job coach services were becoming undesirable and awfully redundant, so I cut the service. While their interest was focused on my development I feel that they were under the impression that I needed a lot more help than what was really called for. Since I have terminated services, I have surpassed several road blocks. Some of the challenges I have faced include but are not limited to: expressing my opinions about cat behavior, talking to coworkers about problems, talking to my boss about my ideas, and so on. I still have life coach services which were implemented to teach me to cook and drive. This is still in development and I am working towards moving out on my own eventually down the line, so wish me luck!
See part one of this article: Animals are Angels of Comfort - How volunteering at an animal shelter saved me.