Best Friends community cat mentorships

Best Friends supports shelters, rescues and spay-neuter clinics with grants and more to increase the save rate for community cats (stray and ferals).
By Kelli Harmon

This article appeared in Best Friends magazine. You can subscribe to the magazine by becoming a Best Friends member.

We’re working toward making the entire country no-kill by 2025, and that means helping animal shelters ramp up programs that save dogs and cats’ lives. Best Friends’ community cat mentorship program, launched in 2017 with help from Maddie’s Fund®, pairs grant funds with expert mentoring to help shelters already well on their way to a 90 percent save rate, the benchmark of no-kill.

Saving community cats’ lives

Best Friends’ community cat mentorships are on track to support at least 6,900 spay/neuter surgeries.

In the first six months after signing on for mentorships, participating shelters’ save rates have increased as much as 24 percent, with an average of 14 percent.

For many of those shelters, reaching that 90 percent save rate means they need to save more cats — specifically cats who arrive as strays or are unsocialized with people, or both. Many felines who end up in shelters are community cats (ferals and strays) who have never known life in a home; only a small percentage of cats who enter shelters are claimed by families.

More about stray cats

Through our work around the country, Best Friends knows how to overcome these challenges and save cats rather than see them killed. Now we’re working to bring that knowledge, along with funding, to organizations interested in using it to save lives.

Desiree Triste-Aragon, Best Friends’ community cat program manager, says, “Since last year, we’ve signed up 13 communities across the country for our cat mentorship program.” Organizations in these communities, which include shelters and high-volume spay/neuter clinics, get seed grants and mentoring from Best Friends staff.

“The funding and guidance helps shelters immediately start saving cats they weren’t previously able to save,” says Desiree. The funds might go toward purchasing humane traps, performing spay/neuter surgeries, hiring staff or other components of an effective program.

“We can’t run programs in every community that needs them, so mentorships are a great way to help shelters start up and run effective community cat programs themselves,” Desiree says. More than ever, there’s a need to identify communities that are close to achieving the no-kill benchmark, as well as a need to help them to reach that goal.

Champions for community cats

Organizations are selected for mentorships based on the impact they can have on reducing the number of cats killed in their community. Currently there are mentorships in nine states, in conjunction with the following organizations:

Arizona: AsaVet Charities, Humane Society of Yuma, Pinal County Animal Care and Control

Hawaii: Maui Humane Society

Idaho: Idaho Humane Society

Illinois: University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine

Indiana: Fort Wayne Animal Care and Control, Indianapolis Animal Care Services

New Mexico: Valencia County Animal Control, Street Cat Hub

North Carolina: Charlotte-Mecklenburg Animal Care & Control, Spay/Neuter Charlotte, Humane Society of Charlotte, Cleveland County Animal Control

Texas: Arlington Animal Services, El Paso Animal Services Shelter

Wyoming: Cheyenne Animal Shelter

Help cats across the country

Photo by Sarah Ause Kichas