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March 16, 2017  Each year in the United States, nearly 3.4 million cats enter animal shelters. While many cats are reunited with their families, many more are awaiting their forever homes. Keeping those cats healthy and happy is critical to increasing their odds of adoption.

Fortunately for them, they have a champion in their (cat) corner. Dr. Kate Hurley and her team at the University of California, Davis, have made it their mission to improve the lives of shelter cats everywhere.

In fact, go into just about any shelter or pet store that features adoptable cats, and you’re likely to see the results of Dr. Hurley’s research. In work funded by the Morris Animal Foundation, Dr. Hurley looked at how cage size and design affects shelter cat health and discovered that larger-sized cages and portals to combine two cages are better for cat health and well-being.

Although providing a larger space for cats in already space-challenged shelters and rescues was met with initial resistance, Dr. Hurley’s suggestions have won over many shelter managers. The testimonials Dr. Hurley has received from shelter managers across the country are glowing, including this one:

“Our decision was to put in portals everywhere,” wrote one shelter manager. “Anywhere that we had a stainless cage we put in a portal or two. All in all, we put in 90+ portals and drilled 180+ holes. The reaction from the staff was immediate and heartfelt. Every cat was now in a one or two bedroom apartment. The cleaning is so easy and, of course, less stressful. I cannot find strong enough words to say just how much this has changed the shelter for the animals, the staff and the public. The public has made comments about how inventive the new passageway is for the cats. For older shelters like ours, this simple alteration made all the difference in the world.”

Many shelters are deeply invested in learning about better ways to care for their cats. Morris Animal Foundation responded to this urgent need for studies that address the specific needs of these vulnerable animals. The Foundation has awarded $3 million in grants to more than 50 studies in the last 20 years that are targeted to the unique medical, social and emotional needs of shelter and rescue animals.

“There’s so much good that’s come from the grants we received from Morris Animal Foundation, it’s hard to even figure out what to say,” said Dr. Hurley. “The portals came directly from that work, and they are just truly the best thing.”

Listen to our Fresh Scoop podcast to learn more about improving the lives of shelter cats.