Cat Watch is a community engagement project which aims to leave a legacy of improved welfare for unowned cats and their human carers.
Cat Watch is a Cats Protection community engagement project which aims to leave a legacy of improved welfare for unowned cats and their human carers.
I confirm that I am fully aware of the eligibility criteria and terms of the Purina BetterwithPets Prize and, based on its description, I am eligible to apply:
Should you be successful, please confirm your availability to attend:
Additional Skype interview(s) during the week of March 16-20th 2020
The Purina BetterwithPets Forum in Paris, on 3-4th of June 2020
Initiative's representative name
Initiative's representative date of birth
Initiative's representative gender
Headquarters location: country
Headquarters location: city
Where are you making a difference?
Cats Protection is a trusted and leading authority on feline welfare across the UK. We find good homes for cats in need, promote the benefits of neutering and provide education, information and advice about cat welfare. Our Cat Watch project is currently operating in Liverpool, Nottingham, Bradford, Bulwell and Houghton Regis.
Website or social media url(s)
Fostering emotional intelligence and behavioural competences
Enhance physical activity and wellness
Re-imagining the role of pets in society
Revolutionizing veterinary care for pets
What is your current yearly budget for the initiative? If you are an idea stage, what early budget you would need to kick-off and run operations in your first year?
nonprofit/NGO: an organisation that uses its resources to achieve a purpose outside of creating profit
1. Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that led the founder(s) to get started or the story of how you saw the potential for this project to succeed.
Cat Watch aims to improve our understanding of the unowned cat population in urban areas and to work alongside communities to improve cat welfare. Cat Watch teams help communities by providing Trap-Neuter-Return services for community cats, returning them to their caretakers and rehoming friendly strays for whom the street life is not suitable. Involving communities enables people to see the benefits of cats in their areas and the potential for community cohesion as people share responsibilities for caring for cats. All Cat Watch interventions aim to provide an element of social support to communities, unifying them over a shared cause, which has proven to help cats and people.
2. The problem: What problem are you helping to solve?
The overpopulation of unowned cats is a complex issue and with no permanent residence or owner to care for them, strays are the most vulnerable cats. Poverty and low income present barriers to people being able to afford and access veterinary care and can result in pets being abandoned thereby adding to the stray population, creating the community cats that rely so heavily on human kindness.
3. Your solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.
Cat Watch is fundamentally a citizen science project with community engagement and participation at the heart of its mission. The aim is to leave a legacy of communities caring for their unowned cat populations by increasing individuals’ self-efficacy to do so.
- Increase awareness of the stray cat population in communities and increase knowledge of how to care for them
- Create stray cat reporting behaviour
- Working with all stakeholders in communities to involve them in the project
- Communities taking responsibility for community cats
- Increased neutering rates of community and stray cats; strategic Trap-Neuter-Return of community cats and re-homing of stray cats
All Cat Watch areas provide heavily subsidised or free neutering for all cats and help with other minor treatments as necessary. As deprived communities are often underserved by veterinary clinics and transport is an issue Cat Watch teams also provide free transport to the vet and support people with resolving transport issues. Affording to feed pets and community cats is also a problem for people when finances are very tight, in some Cat Watch areas; we have also provided access to cat food banks
4. Innovation: How are you innovating or using unique approaches to solve the problem?
A key Cat Watch objective is to engage and enthuse individuals who are already key cat advocates. Many people in communities already provide care for community cats but have never been given the opportunity to do more. A unique aspect of our project is our community cat champion volunteer roles which enable cat advocates to volunteer in different capacities giving small amounts of time. This involves helping at events, door knocking and social media. Also, our innovative Cat Watch App is free to download and enables people to take a picture of a cat they believe to be stray. The aim of the app is to create a simple method of reporting stray cats for people who may not want to become any more involved than that.
5. How does your project harness the pet-human bond to help people develop important social competencies (For example: emotional intelligence, collaboration, empathy, resilience, inclusivity) and overcome serious societal issues (for example: violence, abuse, trauma, isolation, abandonment)?
Community cats are a very important part of communities across the UK. Many people love the presence of community cats in their local area and spend a lot of time looking out for them. For some people, particularly those who are elderly or lonely, this interaction forms a hugely important part of their lives even though they may struggle financially to pay for the costs involved.
The Cat Watch Community hub was created initially as a local drop in point for people to talk to our staff and volunteers about the Cat Watch project. It ran in different types of locations across the pilot areas and was able to meet the aim of being a social support function, increasing members’ self-efficacy and encouraging positive social behaviours. The hub plays a key role in building the capacity of members. Many attendees have gone on to play a much bigger role in the project, from recruiting other hub members through to supporting their neighbours and signing up to become a volunteer. Residents who attended the hubs reported feeling more confident, more connected to their community, more able to help the cats, and because of these factors, felt an increased sense of well-being.
6. Impact: how has your project made a difference so far in terms of both business outputs and social impact? How do you plan on measuring progress?
Cats Protection launched the first Cat Watch project in Bulwell in September 2016. This was the first pilot site which provided baseline learnings to take forwards into the next five areas of Everton, Bradford, Beeston and Houghton Regis & Dunstable.
Following an amazing response from Bulwell residents, reporting strays to us and working with us to Trap-Neuter-Return and care for the strays, we have been able to help so many of the community cats. Comparing 2017 with 2019 we have seen a 75% decline in the total number of cats found on the streets.
Cat Watch has created the shift in behaviour it set out to do, with nearly 4000 reports of stray cats across all Cat Watch areas. Shifts in attitudes have also happened with more people thinking that neutering, veterinary care and provision of food and water is important for unowned cats.
7. Growth strategies: what are your main strategies for scaling your impact?
The ultimate aim of Cat Watch is the community ownership of solutions for the unowned cats across the UK. The project will build on the success of stray cat reporting behaviour to increase individual actions people can take to improve the welfare of community cats. We will also make stronger links with socio-economically disadvantaged communities through collaborative working with animal welfare agencies and the human welfare agencies that support residents and community projects. Working in this way, to create longer-term social change will enable a tangible ‘one welfare’ to be achieved.
8. Creating shared value: How does your initiative create value for different stakeholders?
The Cat Watch approach has been people-centred and multi-faceted; to ensure communication channels were varied and accessible. Building social networks and having a continued presence have been key to the community outreach and engaging with cat caretakers cat advocates in all of the pilot areas.
Importantly the project achieved the human behaviour change desired in creating stray cat reporting. This in turn raised awareness of the overpopulation in communities and enabled shifts in attitudes towards the care people believed unowned cats needed and the importance of neutering.
Behaviour change takes time and requires community participation in order to build on changes in attitude, to move intention to change onto real behaviour change.
9. Financial sustainability plan: can you tell us about your plan to fund your project and how that plan will be sustainable in the short, medium, and long term?
The Cat Watch pilot areas have been funded to date from Cats Protection budgets. Funding has been sought from grant making and other bodies and we were successful in obtaining a £100,000 grant in 2019 to develop the project into two new areas in Liverpool and Nottingham. We will continue to seek funding from a number of avenues in order to help us develop the project. Each area takes 2 to 3 years to establish a sustainable programme, after which it is intended that the community is self sufficient with only occasional support required from the Cat Watch team. Our staff and volunteers can then move onto developing relationships in new areas.
10. Team: what is the current composition of your team (types of roles, qualifications, full-time vs. part-time, board members, etc.), and how do you plan to evolve the team’s composition as the project grows?
The current team is headed up by Jane Clements PGDip (Human) Behaviour Change) RVN, Head of Neutering at Cats Protection and project manager for Cat Watch. The Cat Watch team consists of four Community Neutering Officers and six Community Neutering Assistants who are supported by two project support officers and a Neutering Advocacy Manager.
The expansion of the team would be dependent on the expansion of the geographical reach of Cat Watch which, in turn, is dependent on available funds.
11. How do you plan to influence your field of work if you are a winner of this edition of the Purina BetterwithPets Prize?
The Cat Watch Project has been represented at seven conferences. Articles on the Cat Watch project have been published, including peer-reviewed scientific publications, news releases and communications on Cats Protection and other websites. This sharing of information has provided opportunities to disseminate the project to a wider audience, including academics, veterinarians, animal welfare specialists and the public. Recognition and funding from the Purina BetterwithPets Prize would allow us to raise awareness of the Cat Watch model further and reach an even wider audience to share our work.
12. How did you hear about this challenge?