GREEN COVE SPRINGS, FLORIDA – Lilly is a natural meeter-and greeter: cheerfully chatty and outgoing while Jill is happy to help supervise but also enjoys taking a break for a nice chin-scratching. Both are aspiring job candidates.
The two cats at the Clay County Animal Care and Control animal shelter are among the first to be a part of its newly minted Business Cat Program. Believed to be the first of its kind In Northeast Florida, the program initiated by Christina Sutherin, division director for Animal Care and Control, plans to place shelter cats at pet-friendly businesses temporarily until the felines find forever homes.
Sutherin said they’re trying to find a way to give the shelter cats greater exposure to the public and in the end, increase their chances of being adopted. They also wanted to get the community involved, she said.
“Not every body can have a cat at home because sometimes a child or spouse who, has allergies or you have a dog that doesn’t particularly want to share its home. But at work, it could be nice if you have the availability of an office space to be able to help an animal,” Sutherin said.
Office cats also can contribute to a better, more positive working environment.
“Animals in the office a lot of times have been shown to increase productivity and decrease stress,” she said. “The way we looked at it, this it will benefit employers, too, because who doesn’t want to increase productivity and decrease stress?”
Each business cat receives complete veterinary care including getting spayed or neutered and vaccinated before being placed at a business. The kitty will also come with its own supplies such as food and litter. Businesses need to be able to provide a safe enclosed environment, not to mention lots of love and affection for the kitty.
Sutherin said many of the shelter’s cats are very social, and volunteers come in and spend time with them. But the felines would benefit from a break from shelter life, of course, by spending time in a different environment, she said.
“This is a way for us to learn more information about the cats. And also to give people a different venue to be able see them. If they’re at a business frequented by a lot of people, sometimes it’s a little less intimidating of an environment for an adopter than coming here to the shelter because its hard not to let it melt your heart when you walk in and see them in their kennels,” said Sutherin, adding even though the cats are very well-cared for at the shelter, it can be stressful for people to see them in that environment.
They began advertising the program back in the third week of March. Although they’s received several inquiries none of the cats had been placed at a business as of April 4.
Meanwhile, 25 shelter cats found homes during a recent weekend Super Adoption Event, which depleted temporarily the pool of available business cats, she said.
Lilly and Jill were among those ready and available to go to work. About a year- and eight months old, Lilly is a black tiger-striped domestic short hair cat. Jill, about seven months old, and is a black and white domestic short hair cat.
Getting a business cat, Sutherin said, must be a collaborative decision of everyone who works in the office or shop. Sutherin said they check to ensure the site and environment is safe and suitable for a cat or kitten. There also will be support — help and advice — available to everyone involved with the business, she said.
“We don’t want any of our cats let out into a busy parking lot. The provisions are there to keep them safe and secure,” she said. They also will provide a large crate so they can put the cat up during the night to keep it from accidentally setting off the business’s burglar alarm.
Sutherin said she’s seen similar programs overseas where cats are on staff at coffee shops, book stores and even in office settings.
“If they tell us what their needs are, we can direct them to which cats we think will work out for them,” Sutherin said of the prospective program participants. They are looking for businesses with- and without people coming and going a lot.
“Some of our cats would do better in kind of a low-traffic environment, and then we have some really social cats that are willing to meet someone new every two minutes and be an official greeter,” Sutherin said.
There is absolutely free to borrow a business cat, she said.
“It’s just their time and attention,” Sutherin said.
For more information about the Business Cat Program, or to volunteer, donate or even view dogs and cats available for adoption visit the county Animal Care and Control website,www.claycountygov.com/departments/animal-care-control or call (904) 269-6342.
The main shelter is located at 3984 Florida 16 West, Green Cove Springs, is open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, and 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday. It is closed on Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays.
Its Fleming Island Adoption Center, located at 1809-4 Town Center Blvd., Fleming Island, is open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Friday through Sunday.