The BC SPCA has won a prestigious animal welfare award for its Hide, Perch & Go™ box from International Cat Care (formerly the Feline Advisory Bureau) of the UK. The award is for innovation of a cat welfare product from the non-profit sector, the first such award given.
“The BC SPCA’s Hide, Perch & Go box helps cats adapt to both the stress of the shelter environment and in their adoptive homes,” says Craig Naherniak, BC SPCA general manager, humane education. The box is designed so that the cat’s one familiar item at the shelter moves with the cat, by converting to a temporary transport carrier. Once in the new home the carrier is reassembled, becoming a safe, familiar “haven” for the cat. Saturated with the cat’s own scent, the box helps reduce stress for the cat in the new setting.
Here’s how the box helps cats self-manage stress. Cats are most stressed in the first 72 hours after arriving at a shelter. Everything familiar has been removed from them. Typically the first thing stressed cats will try to do is hide in order to assess their new environment. Without the box, cats typically would hide in their litter boxes. At night they would dig under the newspaper lining their cage.
“With the Hide, Perch & Go box cats have more control over their environment, allowing them a safe refuge inside the box,” says Naherniak. “The two openings allow cats with an escape route so they don’t feel trapped.”
Once adjusted, and feeling safer, cats will perch so they can survey their surroundings. Cats also cheek-rub on the box, which releases calming pheromones that further aid in stress reduction.
The Hide, Perch & Go box is a unique product developed from research conducted by Nadine Gourkow while studying for her UBC Master’s degree in animal welfare. “Nadine spent many nights in the shelter quietly observing what cats did once the public and staff had gone for the night,” says Naherniak. “She observed how the most stressed cats were particularly active at night and spent hours pacing, crying and digging in their newspaper to try to either escape or find a safe place to hide.” It was clear to Nadine that cats needed a place to temporarily hide or their stress level would prevent them from performing normal self-maintenance behaviours such as eating, eliminating and grooming.
After several prototypes, an appropriate design emerged with just the hide and perch components. This box was successfully used in BC SPCA shelters for months.
“One afternoon I asked Nadine if we could somehow incorporate the travel box component for a couple of reasons: one, it would allow cats to have a scent-marked, familiar box to use when they were rehomed, and, second, we could save thousands of dollars in not having to purchase additional travel carriers,” says Naherniak. “We worked on a few mock-ups and within a month we had what is now known internationally as the BC SPCA’s Hide, Perch & Go box.”
The box has literally saved thousands of cats from unnecessary stress in the shelter and, with the addition of the travel box component, has made their transition to new homes more comfortable. Plus it has saved the BC SPCA hundreds of thousands of dollars with the combination of hide and perch box and travel carrier.
The British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is a not-for-profit organization reliant on public donations. Our mission is to protect and enhance the quality of life for domestic, farm and wild animals in B.C.