In celebration of our feline friends, this school year our Mutt-i-grees Team has dedicated their efforts to place felines front and center. We are raising awareness of all the wonderful attributes cats have to offer that enrich our lives and the importance of rescue and adoption of cats and kittens. And are shining a spotlight on the educators, students and shelter partners that are helping us to fuel this mission. These efforts are an extension of our Yale-developed Curriculum Cats Are Mutt-i-grees 2. As part of North Shore Animal League America’s mission to educate we bring the curriculum to life providing hands-on experiences.

Because of the overpopulation of felines, shelters are challenged with rescue, adoption, and caring for their community cat population. In turn, cats face the plight of euthanasia as a means of population control in many shelters or suffer from living outdoors without food and protection. The belief that homeless cats are self-sufficient is false. The belief that cats are fine living in the wild is also false. Yes, our feline friends are astonishing in their independence and capabilities. However, like any breathing creature they are sentient beings with feelings and emotions and require respect and care. Whether domesticated or living outdoors, they need us.

The perception of cats has evolved dramatically over the centuries. And not for the better. Thousands of years ago the Egyptians’ believed cats were magical creatures, capable of bringing good luck to the people who housed them. To honor these treasured pets, wealthy families dressed them in jewels and fed them treats fit for royalty. Today, cats are often left in garages to catch mice and fend for themselves. The expression that they have nine lives gives the impression they can be harmed and still survive. Black cats are considered bad luck, which projects a stigma making it difficult for them to get adopted. Curiosity killed the cat – placing a negative connotation on the association between the two when in fact it’s curiosity that propels us to learn but cats are considered not bright for being inquisitive. Our feline friends have gone from being a creature of value to a creature that is viewed as expendable. This lack of attachment leads to a lack of empathy. Without empathy, lacks care.

With the launch of our Mutt-i-gree Cat Program partnering schools and libraries with their local shelter, the program now spans thirteen states, and international partners – including: California, Maine, Maryland, Puerto Rico, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Arkansas, Florida, Missouri, Hawaii, Texas, Kentucky, and New York as well as Bosnia, The Netherlands and Morocco where the students never stop. Our Mutt-i-grees Global Student Ambassadors have taken the lead in supporting homeless felines. Students who have a passion for animals, students from Veterinary Programs and students working to fulfill capstone projects are learning hands-on while some even receive school credit. Spanning from age five to eighteen, together with the shelter staff, they work to develop events that raise awareness and funds to support adoption and their community cats. Everyone is presented with the opportunity to gain work experience, while learning the importance of volunteering with this service-learning program to help at risk animals.

We’d like to introduce some of the loving dedicated people that joined us to change a negative narrative into a positive one by raising awareness on the plight of our feline friends.

North Washington-Saratoga-Warren-Hamilton-Essex BOCES High School Small Animal Science Program partnered with Animal League America’s North Country, where we launched our first Mutt-i-grees School Cat Foster Program. This partnership is the purrrfect synergy! BOCES has all kinds of animals living on-site for various programs that are cared for by teachers who are Veterinary Technicians and their students who are training for careers in animal welfare. Seven cats were adopted last year and this year they are fostering two more at the same time! This program is unique as a non-traditional foster home that opens space and the animal shelter to save more lives while teaching students empathy and real-life job skills in rescue, adoption, and veterinary care. This program brings the lives of cats waiting adoption full circle in teaching us to understand their needs and unique personalities. The students experience the value and love that cats bring to our lives. Read more about the Foster Cat Program here.

In Puerto Rico at Urb. La Rambla calle San Judas we not only have Mutt-i-grees Foster Cats but also have a School Dog who was rescued from the street. The Puerto Rico Mutt-i-grees Global Ambassador group are the Cristo Rey Pawsitive Minds. In support of homeless animals, they continue to do humane relocation with our Puerto Rico shelter partner Proud Rescuers. The Cristo Rey Pawsitive Minds foster kittens in need of homes that are then relocated to the safety of our New York campus. These students demonstrate everyday what it is to think positively and take action! Read more about our ambassadors from Puerto Rico here.

Another highlight is the wonderful work being accomplished by our new Texas shelter partner, City of El Paso Animal Services and Pebble Hills High School. The students assist in various areas of the shelter and in the community. Students are taking actions from volunteering at offsite adoptions, walking in city parades to promote adoption, microchipping and vaccinating at their free clinics, assisting in their free pet pantry, prepping community cats for their surgeries, and even joining in with their surgery team to assist with spay/neuters. They’ve even begun canvassing neighborhoods to speak about the different resources the shelter offers like offering microchips right then and there! One of the students Joshua has done over 300 hours of volunteering and their hope is when he completes his education, he will be their new veterinarian!

Our Bosnia Ambassador begins every morning feeding the cats at a makeshift shelter in their community. She is dedicated to making the lives of homeless animals better. She has been an integral part developing a shelter partner in The Netherlands where they transport cats for fostering and adoption. She has also helped to rescue more than two dozen dogs that have found loving homes.

From Hawaii to Maryland to California and beyond, students have cleaned cages, bottle fed, groomed, taken to social media and held drives to collect needed items for the community cat population. We couldn’t be prouder of our dear friends and partners. They have become family. At a recent virtual “Town Hall” several Student Ambassadors shared these and other activities to help rescue homeless cats and transition them to loved and loving pets. Beyond proud, we are honored and humbled to be working side-by-side with them. They enrich our lives and inspire us to do more.

At North Shore Animal League America, we are dedicated to educating as an integral part of our mission to end all forms of animal cruelty, including neglect. We are devoted to raising awareness of the plight of homeless cats – homeless animals. We work to change the narrative, misconceptions, stereotypes, and end euthanasia as a means of population control by developing various programs. But we can’t do it without our shelter partners, our school partners. Please join us in our quest to end euthanasia as a means of population control. We can’t do it without YOU!

Contact us at [email protected] for more information.