FRESNO, Calif. - Can we talk? And be honest.
Do you like your cat?
For some people the honeymoon with their new cat is over within days - and that's why the Central California Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has started to give its cats a personality test.
The test is known as "Meet Your Match: feline-ality."
"Are you looking for one that will sit down with you, or do you want one that will jump up and play with you?" said Beth Caffrey, volunteer coordinator for the Fresno, Calif.-based SPCA. Such questions "will make people think about what they want" before they adopt.
There are nine personality types, ranging from shy, quiet and loving to playful, adventurous and downright crazy. Cats are assessed by shelter workers based on their behaviors and interests. Then by using a questionnaire, shelter employees try to match an owner's preferences with the cat's behavior.
For example, Sheetrock, a shelter mascot, displays rambunctious, "party animal" traits.
Brooks, another of the shelter mainstays, is Sheetrock's opposite - a low-key, somewhat shy, "private investigator."
Prospective cat owners who come to the shelter or SPCA adoption site in a pet store are asked to fill out a 16-question survey to identify the type of cat they want to adopt.
When potential owners go through the "cattery" portion of the shelter, they see purple, orange and green cards on display that represent the personality types.
Bill Danner, of Sanger, Calif., was searching for a cat to hunt down moles on his property. A large, calm black-and-white male was a good fit, because the cat could handle Danner's dogs as well as his mole problem.
With some assistance from the cattery's lead person, Beatrice Erwin, he selected the cat. "He has some scrapes, like he's been in some battles," Erwin told Danner.
Karen and Steve Dezso, whose "feline-ality" form pointed to a high-energy cat, took home a gray-and-white kitten after adopting a puppy, too.
Steve Dezso was looking for a dog to replace one that recently died. The couple also has an elderly cat.
"This will be the second time we are raising a dog and cat together," he said. "We want to prove that dogs and cats can live together."
The Fresno SPCA has a return rate of about 25 percent for cats, which means one of every four cats taken home is returned to the shelter, Caffrey said.
The return rate is even higher for dogs. Nearly two in five dogs are returned, which is why the SPCA will start a program in 2008 for canine-ality testing, she said.
The program was developed by veterinarian Emily Weiss at the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in New York City. Feline-ality and its companion programs for dogs are being used in more than 100 shelters.
The ASPCA, which offers program training, is tracking its effectiveness. The agency shows that return and euthanasia rates have decreased as much as 40 percent in shelters where the program is used.
The sharp drops in returns are occurring from both feline-ality, and canine-ality testing, the ASPCA said. *