Cats flying out the door in shelter-pet store partnership

Barb Sweet
Published on July 6, 2011

Maggie the cat looks unimpressed when a dog strolls up to check her out.

But otherwise, the three-year-old grey tiger stripe is nonchalantly biding her time in her spacious kennel at PetSmart on Stavanger Drive in St. John’s.

Nearby, Tetley, a ginger-coloured kitten goes back to sleep, unfazed by the visit from the canine, who was there with its owner.

If the statistics so far are any indication, it’s likely Maggie and Tetley, and other cats temporarily living in the store, won’t be around for long.

Since PetSmart opened the second week of May, 58 cats have been  adopted as of Tuesday morning.

SPCA volunteer adoption co-ordinator Cheryl Ellis and store manager Mark Braybrook were expecting to hit 60 by at least Thursday.

“That’s more than one a day, which is absolutely fantastic,” Braybrook noted, standing under a tally board indicating 4.6 million animals have been adopted out from PetSmart’s stores in North America through its charity arm since the chain opened 26 years ago.

The chain has never sold dogs or cats, but instead partners with pet adoption non profits. In St. John’s, the animals come from the SPCA.

“We’re just so happy,” Ellis said.

“These guys have been great and really easy to work with. Anything we need, we get.”

Some are kittens, but there are older cats up for adoption also.

Maggie, who is spayed, came to the SPCA when her owner passed away.

The success of the program in St. John’s has been remarkable, Ellis and Braybrook agreed.

“If we were able to keep that average throughout all the stores, that’s an astronomical number,” Braybrook said.

Store staff tend to the animals, clean their spaces and the food is provided by Purina.

“They are given everything. They’re checked on several times during the day. They get adequate exercise. They’re just doing really well,” Ellis said, adding any pet uncomfortable in the store setting would be brought back to the SPCA shelter.

But none have been around more than two weeks before being adopted, Braybrook noted.

The plan is to feature dogs on the weekends, but the need is much greater for cats.

They’ve only had dogs over once so far since the store opened, as usually there’s already an adoption application waiting on shelter dogs.

“Our cat population is just explosive. They are really the problem for us,” Ellis said.

“Our adoptable dogs will find homes. We have so many cats. Last year we had close to 1,400 come through the door.”

Adoption fees for both dogs and cats are $125 each.

That includes a vet exam, first vaccination, tests for feline leukemia and feline immunodeficiency virus, deworming, flea treatment, microchip, SPCA identification tag and 30 days’ pet insurance.

“If you went to a clinic to have all those things done, it would cost a lot,” Ellis said.

The adoption agreement requires the successful adoption applicant have the pet spayed or neutered.

Rather than the shelter, which is open only a few hours on the weekends, the store is open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. six days a week and Sunday, 12-5 p.m.

When SPCA volunteers aren’t there, store staff can help people fill out applications.

“The SPCA has done a great job in making sure the program is able to run effectively,”Braybrook said.

SPCA volunteer adoption co-ordinator Cherly Ellis and PetSmart store manager Mark Braybrook play with one of the kittens up for adoption at the store. Photo by Gary Hebbard/The Telegram