Policies to support intake decisions
A policy sets a general organisation-wide philosophy about how to manage particular situations or types of cat. It ensures you have carefully considered different situations and your approach to them. These are typical policies that you will need to create in writing to support intake.
- How to deal with elderly, stray, feral, sick and injured cats
- Which diseases to test for and how to deal with the results eg, FIV/FeLV
- Whether to spay pregnant cats
- Dealing with kittens – eg hand rearing or unsocialised kittens
- Returns policy (for cats being returned to the centre)
For example, you may ask people wishing to relinquish an older cat to have it health assessed by a veterinarian. If it requires standard treatment such as dental work, then consider making this a precondition of taking the cat in. If the cat has a long-term condition, for example kidney disease, then establish the severity and treatment plan and assess whether the cat can reasonably be expected to be adopted. It is not the role of homing centres to make decisions about euthanasia on behalf of reluctant owners.
|Here is a link to a list of policy statements created by The Cat Group, a collection of professional organisations in the UK dedicated to feline welfare through the development and promotion of policies and recommendations on the care and keeping of all cats.|
Procedures to support intake decisions
A procedure is a standardised way of working, usually documented in writing, followed by all staff and volunteers. Procedures tend to be updated regularly to ensure they reflect current knowledge and best practice and they play a key role in embedding daily routines. These are typical procedures and paperwork to support intake.
- Intake questionnaire
- Telephone call management system/triage forms
- Community assessment guidance/paperwork/support packages
- Process for admission to the homing centre or foster home
Call to action – Proactive, not Reactive Intake!
- Working towards optimum capacity with clear guidelines on the admission process is an exciting step towards better care and helping more cats in the long-term
- Spread the word amongst all your staff and colleagues to ensure they are clear about the information you have gained from this section and that they understand the benefits of changing, eg helping more cats in the long-term by helping fewer cats well at any one time. Get everyone involved and ask for their ideas
- Make sure you collect some basic information that will show everyone the impact of changes, eg seeing a reduction in the average length of stay in the homing centre
- Review your existing intake documentation; can it be used? Does it need adapting or replacing?
- Review your existing policies; do you have any? Would particular policies be helpful in your situation? If so, make a list
- Review your existing procedures; do you have any written down? Would particular procedures be helpful in your situation? If so, make a list
- If you feel you are working beyond your limits to care well for the cats then consider closing all intake for a period of time to enable you to establish the number of cats that you can care for really well. Bear in mind this won’t be a fixed number as some cats will require more time and specific care than others
- Take photos of every cat in your care and make a complete inventory (not forgetting those in foster care): When did they come in, what do you know about them and what kind of outcome are you looking for?
- Give yourself a time limit to make these changes and don’t try to do too much at once. Make a list of tasks for each action you wish to take and put the items in order, with those of the greatest urgency at the top. Create a deadline for each task, eg you may want to make one change every month or feel you can realistically achieve two or three. Allocate tasks to specific individuals or small groups so that everyone knows who is responsible for each action plan
- Keep talking and sharing progress with everyone – acknowledge that change may be difficult and can bring to the surface underlying problems that may not have been addressed in the past
|Getting the best from staff and volunteers
It is easy to focus solely on the cats, but people are also fundamental to good cat welfare. Getting the best from staff and volunteers will have an immediate impact on the cats in your care. We all have a duty to be professional and make sure our organisations are run to the highest possible standards. Good leadership is essential – especially when implementing change. Good communication and consistent messages from all managers and any trustees will be needed. Recruiting staff and volunteers with the right skills is very important and having detailed job descriptions (for volunteers as well) will make sure that everyone is clear about what is expected. People with experience in other industries can be beneficial in finding good management and organisational skills.
Training is also key – whether formal or on the job and backed up with an assessment of people’s competence to perform tasks. Good policies and procedures will help everyone to work to common standards and follow the same systems. Staff and volunteers benefit from a supportive organisation where they are treated with respect and work is fun and rewarding. You can prevent work-related stress with regular reviews and meetings. People need to have a process for their views to be heard and to understand how decisions are made.