By Bob Gordon, FOTAS Communications Director
Audie Murphy, Felix, Tiffy, Avalon, Kiki, Pip and Pickles are each in their own cat carrier after being examined, vaccinated, microchipped, and given a final flea treatment. Once the pre-prepared adoption forms and other paperwork is checked over and put into folders by Aiken County Animal Shelter (ACAS) staff members, the seven cats and kittens are ready to begin their short journey from the shelter to the PetSmart store on Whiskey Road.
An ACAS adoption assistant transports the chorus of meowing felines to the Aiken PetSmart, and upon arriving is greeted by Store Manager Butch Hampton or one of his friendly employees. The PetSmart team is always happy to see new cats come in and takes pride in its role of helping adopt them to customers.
“Things are going great with the work we are doing with FOTAS and the County Shelter,” Butch said. “Everybody is fully engaged and committed to this partnership, and I think we make a good team.”
The ACAS representative makes sure all of the felines are settled into their PetSmart cat apartments located in the back-left corner of the store. Then, the PetSmart staff takes over, ensuring that any interested customers receive the information and paperwork needed to adopt the cats. The adoption fee is $35, which includes spay/neuter, vaccinations and microchip.
Before FOTAS began its direct partnership with PetSmart, the adoption fee for the store’s cats was about twice as much as it is now. Also, adoptions were managed by a rescue that required a home inspection of potential adopters. While a worthy precaution, this added stipulation could take a lot of extra time. Now, folks can adopt a cat and take it home right away.
It is a mutually beneficial relationship. The cats draw customers to PetSmart and the store serves as a second venue for the shelter to showcase its adoptable felines. But the real winners of this collaborative effort are the cats themselves. With the effective teamwork between the organizations, the shelter cats are finding homes quicker, making space for more cats to get their chance at being adopted. Since just mid-December, more than 35 shelter cats have been adopted at the PetSmart store. Since the partnership was initiated, the Shelter has replenished PetSmart with new cats every week.
Also fully committed to the goal of saving the shelter’s cats and finding them forever homes are eight volunteers that help keep the PetSmart cats clean, watered and fed. They follow a strict schedule, making sure that someone comes in to maintain the cats’ living area twice a day, every day. Some volunteers stay for hours to play with the felines, helping to socialize and prepare them for their future forever homes.
“I think having the County’s homeless cats at both the shelter and PetSmart helps the Aiken community see how many beautiful and loving cats are available,” said Volunteer Judy Albert. “They all need permanent and loving homes.”
Their lives are in our hands.
For more information about the PetSmart cat adoptions, please go to www.fotasaiken.org and be sure to check out the shelter cats available for adoption at the ACAS, 333 Wire Road in Aiken or at the Aiken PetSmart, 2927 Whiskey Road.