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BTAA awarded CATalyst grant

| October 3, 2023 1:00 AM

SANDPOINT — A local animal alliance is "feline" the love from a national cat organization.

The grant funds from the CATalyst Council will fund feline care and research through Better Together Animal Alliance.

The national organization focuses on enhancing the quality of life for cats and their people, awarded BTAA its inaugural grant to support the Sandpoint area group's helpline and its national Home To Home program. The goal of the partnership is to support pet owners who encounter issues with house soiling among their felines, which is the most common reason felines are surrendered to animal shelters.

“We'll be measuring how many people contact our helpline with this concern about their felines, documenting the intervention we provide, and what the outcome is,” Mandy Evans, BTAA executive director, said. “This effort will be in conjunction with a larger data collection process that will capture national trends via our Home To Home program.”

Established in 2022, CATalyst's grant program was created to increase access to care and subsequent medicalization of companion cats. BTAA was selected for a $20,000 grant to enhance data collection of its helpline services, to assess the impact of telehealth options on reducing the surrender of cats to the shelter, and to serve as a model for other helpline services. Data collection and analysis will help show the impact of the partnership and showcase how increased access to services such as a helpline or telemedicine may help pets and their families stay together.

As part of the grant, BTAA’s direct animal care team completed the American Association of Feline Practitioners’ Cat Friendly Veterinary Professional certificate program. The program trains staff on a comprehensive review of relevant information about feline physical/behavioral health needs. When people call the helpline, BTAA’s medical staff will use cat-friendly resources to assess the behavior and help determine if it’s medical in nature and refer to a veterinarian, and make suggestions to help stop it if environmental and behavioral components are involved.

While local pet owners will speak directly to a BTAA veterinary technician to assist with their questions, national pet owners will now have access to a free telehealth service through whiskerDocs to help assess their needs.

“If someone posts their cat on Home To Home for rehoming due to inappropriate house soiling, they will receive an email offering free teleadvice through whiskerDocs. We will be able to measure the number of felines posted, the percentage of pet owners who take advantage of the teleadvice service, and the outcome after they receive advice,” Evans said.

Evans said the goal of this partnership and research is to reduce the number of cats that are surrendered to shelters or rehomed each year for issues that could be easily addressed at home with some assistance from a professional.

“CATalyst Council is delighted to award our inaugural grant to Better Together Animal Alliance,” said Dr. Jane Brunt, Executive Director of CATalyst Council. “This pilot program will focus locally on their helpline and at other shelters on their Home to Home platform. The opportunity to collect data and report outcomes while collaborating across communities is an important concept for lifelong cat health and welfare. Just as important, the information gathered will have a direct positive impact on the human-feline bond.”

To learn more about the CATalyst Council and their work, visit catalystcouncil.org. To learn more about BTAA or Home To Home visit bettertogetheranimalalliance.org or home-home.org.

Information: Better Together Animal Alliance, bettertogetheranimalalliance.org; or CATalyst Council, catalystcouncil.org