Introduction to the ACC Feline Behavior Assessment

This assessment will aim to provide information for adopters, New Hope Partners and all members of the public about cats’ behavior both in the shelter environment, as well as in a home when that information is available. The assessment is based on 4 Levels for adoptable cats, as well as New Hope Only. Within each of the 4 Levels there may be potential challenges that the behavior team have identified with that cat, and these should be discussed with potential adopters or groups to give as much information as possible on the cats’ behavior. For many cats there will be an accompanying training or behavior modification plan that can go home with the cat to try to ensure a successful adoption or placement.

Level 1

Summary: No major challenges, high level of tolerance, affectionate, suitable for any type of adopter.

Cats with Level 1 determinations are suitable for the majority of homes. These cats are not displaying concerning behaviors in shelter, and the owner surrender profile (where available) is positive. Some cats with Level 1 determinations may still have potential challenges, but these are challenges that the behavior team believe can be handled by the majority of adopters. Of these potential challenges some are actually recommendations for their future home environment (no young children/other pets, etc.) while others pertain to observed or reported behaviors (high activity level, excessive meowing, and carrier aversion)

Level 2

Summary: A cat that appears to behave like a cat, may have some low-intensity behavior challenges or mild triggers but overall suitable for most adopters, provided they have a basic understanding of typical cat behavior

Cats with Level 2 determinations will be suitable for adopters with some previous cat experience. These cats may not initiate attention right away and may take some time to warm up to people, but they allow all petting and handling. We may not recommend a first-time adopter for these cats, but recommend someone with minimal experience. Prior experience with the particular challenges a cat is presenting with is beneficial but not necessary. Cats with a Level 2 determination may have multiple potential challenges and these may be presenting at differing levels of intensity, so careful consideration of the behavior notes will be required for counseling. Potential challenges at Level 2 include no young children, no dogs, no other cats, and single pet home, overstimulation, inappropriate elimination without modification attempt, very high activity level, and rough play. These behaviors may require management but overall the cat is displaying behavior appropriate for cat parents with an average amount of experience.

Level 3

Summary: These cats may be a little more challenging to live with and/or may be slow to adjust to new situations, but we still believe will be successful pets with adopters who have some previous cat experience and/or are up for the challenge and show openness to counseling.

Cats with Level 3 determinations will need to go to homes with experienced adopters. These cats usually display signs of fear and will need time to warm up to their new home and family or they are social cats with potential challenges that require someone with a general understanding of the specific challenge. It is likely that every cat with a Level 3 determination will have flyers available that discuss the behaviors and how to safely manage them. Some of the challenges seen at Level 3 are also seen at Level 1 and Level 2, but when seen alongside a Level 3 determination can be assumed to be more severe. The potential challenges for Level 3 determinations include adult only home, single pet home, socialization, overstimulation, pet-induced aggression, litter box issues, fearful behavior, rough play, and bite/scratch history.

Level 4

Summary: Based on history these cats are great pets but are really struggling in the shelter environment, suitable for adopters with previous cat experience and who are willing to take a chance on a cat who really needs to get into a home.

Cats with Level 4 determinations are displaying distance-increasing behavior in shelter and will escalate to bite and/or scratch to avoid interaction, however their owner surrender notes describe normal cat behaviors in a home environment. These cats can be made available to the public, provided the adopter understands the behaviors seen in the care center are likely shelter-specific based on the reports from the previous home. The adopter will need to have experience with fearful cats and their potential challenges. We should still be seeking New Hope placement for these cats, but they now have another placement option available.

New Hope Only

The New Hope Only determination will be essentially the same as before. NHO cats are considered by the behavior team to be unsafe or unable to be successfully placed directly into an adoptive home for a variety of reasons.