Cat Pawsitive: Positive Reinforcement Training for Cats in Shelters

April 07, 2016
A Signature Program of the Jackson Galaxy Foundation
In his hit TV show, “My Cat From Hell,” our founder, the Cat Daddy himself, Jackson Galaxy, has shown us that a mentally stimulated, active cat is a much more happy cat. In a shelter environment, behavior enrichment and physical activity can also make that cat a much more easily adoptable cat. And adoptability saves lives.

Shelters can often be overwhelming places for cats. The sights, loud sounds and strange smells can make even the most outgoing, active cat become nervous and shut down. For cats who already tend to be shy, the stress of their shelter surroundings can make them hide under blankets and in the corners of cages to avoid contact with anyone who approaches. Stress can also lead to illness such as upper respiratory infection. All of these things can contribute to making a cat seem less “adoptable.”
Cat Pawsitive was created to help keep that from happening.
Developed by Jackson Galaxy and a team of animal behavior experts, Cat Pawsitive is a mojo-enhancing, “pawsitive”-reinforcement training program that enriches day-to-day life for cats in shelters, builds new skills for cats as well as shelter staff and volunteers, promotes the human-cat bond, and helps improve adoptability.  
By utilizing positive, reward-based Cat Pawsitive training, a shelter volunteer or staff member can reduce the stresses that might keep a cat from connecting with an adopter. With clicker training that positively reinforces good behaviors, a shy cat can learn to feel comfortable coming up to the front of her cage to meet a potential pet parent, a feisty cat can learn to play nice, and an outgoing kitty can even learn to give an endearing "high five" to his visitors to seal an adoption deal. Cats gain confidence and get mental and physical stimulation through their clicker training sessions, and soon they are building connections with staff, volunteers and potential adopters.
The Jackson Galaxy Foundation program team has selected nine shelters from across the country to be a part of the first class of the Cat Pawsitive program. They are: Washington Humane Society/Washington Animal Rescue League, Animal Care Centers of New York City, Maryland SPCA, Furkids, Cat Adoption Team, The Anti-Cruelty Society, Providence Animal Rescue League, Tabby Town, and the SPCA of Texas. Ranging from small, limited-admission private shelters to large, open-admission municipal shelters, the common goals of these organizations will be:
  • Increasing the adoptability of cats in their shelters
  • Keeping cats in the shelter engaged, and behaviorally and physically active
  • Empower and inspire shelter staff and volunteers through increased knowledge
  • Showing people in and out of the shelter that cats can be taught using positive reinforcement training methods
  • Raising the public profile of shelter cats and the great work being done at Cat Pawsitive shelters
  • Capture both qualitative and quantitative results
  • Demonstrate collaborative effort through modelling
Cat Pawsitive shelters will:
  • Participate in three training webinars with our team of feline behavior experts;
  • Have direct access to consultations with our training team during the three-month training program
  • Receive exclusive JGF training tools, handouts and videos
  • Receive national exposure through the social media outlets of Jackson Galaxy and the Jackson Galaxy Foundation
The Cat Pawsitive initiative kicks off on April 19, 2016. Be sure to check back here frequently for updates on the initiative and to learn more about the shelters and their trainer/mentors.