Every year, the volunteer Cat Behavior Evaluators handle over 1,200 kitten and cats. Every week of the year, these volunteers do both medical and behavioral evaluations for the felines that become available for adoption. The name “behavior evaluator” is a bit of misnomer, as much of what is done –shaving kitties looking for spay scars, trimming nails, giving shots, cleaning ears, checking teeth, worming, defleaing, and updating the future vet treatments for each adopted kitty—is  medical in nature.

In addition to writing the behavior profile, the evaluators ensure that each kitty has received all the appropriate medical assessments before becoming available for adoption. Vaccine and worming protocols are always the talk of each evaluation, in addition to determining what the best home situation would be for our feline friends. Cat Evaluators don’t have the easiest working conditions. Typically, evaluators take a kitty they’ve never met out of a cage, carry him or her through a room of barking dogs, bring him or her into a unfamiliar room (where there are more dogs barking on the other side of the wall), and then trim their nails! It’s a testament to their patience and knowledge of cat behavior that they’re able to perform many successful evaluations.

The Cat Evaluators are a busy group. Many have been volunteering at Marin Humane for a couple of decades and their broad base of experience helps in this complex task. Many also volunteer in other capacities including Dog Evaluator, Behavior Volunteer, Clinic Volunteer, Animal Transporter, Foster Parent, MarCom volunteer, Dog Pet Pal, Cat Pet Pal, Dog Training Instructor, and Cat Behavior Instructor. Anni Black, a volunteer herself, coordinates the group handling the administrative matters: scheduling, training, and keeping track of the statistics. Jan Johnson reviews the profiles and Kim Bromley rewrites the ones for any cat who has been with us for more than 45 days.

During the North Bay Fire response, the Cat Evaluators were one of the first volunteer groups who sprang into action, coming in on the Columbus Day holiday to welcome the Pets Life Line fire evacuees. They settled the cats in, input their data into Shelter Buddy, and gave them their incoming medical procedures protocol. During this period, a small group of cat evaluators inventoried all the cats and cleaned up discrepancies in locations in Shelter Buddy. This allowed pet-guardian reunions to proceed swiftly. Several Cat Evaluators were part of the group of cat volunteers who helped fire evacuees visit their felines during the evacuation. Listening to the stories of fire evacuees was frequently heartbreaking, yet the opportunity to bring pet parents together with their felines was heartwarming.

Our Cat Evaluators typically come to Marin Humane with a fair bit of experience, however, training to be a Cat Evaluator typically takes several months. What does it take to be a cat evaluator? The ability to calm a frightened kitten or cat, knowledge of Marin Humane protocols, cat behavior expertise, Shelter Buddy knowledge, and the ability to write witty profiles for kitties are the main skill sets. There are currently three Cat Behavior Evaluators in training: John Dodelson, Ian Hooper, and Dawn Landis. We expect they’ll be joining the esteemed ranks of Anni Black, Marilyn Freund, Susie Harper, Jan Johnson, Hanne Larsen, Betsy McGee, Jen Myers, Mark Sanders, Barbara Terrell, Kate Vance, and Elfie Weideli very soon.

We are grateful to the Cat Behavior Evaluator volunteers for all they do to get the cats and kittens adopted!