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First Impressions 101 – How Ritualized Introductions Can Turn a Scaredy Cat into a Social Butterfly

  • Monday, January 09, 2023
  • 5:00 PM
  • Wednesday, January 31, 2024
  • 6:00 PM
  • On Demand


  • This registration is for PPG members
  • For the General Public



First Impressions 101 – How Ritualized Introductions Can Turn a Scaredy Cat into a Social Butterfly 

On Demand 

Interactive cats who approach unfamiliar people in a friendly manner or remain relaxed as they are approached, are much preferred by caregivers. In a shelter setting, the more quickly cats approach potential adopters, the sooner they get adopted. In contrast, shelter cats who are less comfortable in the proximity of strangers have a mean length of stay as much as three times longer than that of their interactive counterparts and are more likely to be euthanized. Despite the risks for relatively fearful cats, behavioral interventions for them rarely extend beyond environmental management and patience.


At Friends For Life Animal Shelter, Melissa and colleagues have developed a simple, novel, and effective ritualized introduction method that trains undersocialized cats to display genuinely friendly and affectionate behavior towards new people. This protocol has been successful as a component of a socialization program for fearful cats, and demonstrates a wider application for helping the typical “house feral” learn to look forward to meeting visitors in their home.


Learning Objectives:

  • Describe how adoption programs can benefit from a structured approach towards socializing fearful shelter cats.
  • Outline a step-by-step process for conditioning undersocialized cats to approach and solicit affection from new people in shelter and at home.
  •  Identify components of a pre- and post- adoption support plan to ensure that fearful cat placements stick.

About Your Presenter 

Melissa Taylor is the behavior and training manager at Friends For Life Animal Shelter in Houston, Texas. She has logged more than 20 years in shelter animal behavior, starting with an internship at the ASPCA’s Animal Behavior Center in New York City. She developed a lasting love for cooperative care from training livestock and wildlife as the coordinator of the Behavior and Training Department at the Houston SPCA, and applies the same principles to the dogs, cats, exotics, and humans she works with now at Friends For Life.


Over the course of her career, Melissa has focused on the development of shelter humane education programs, particularly those for volunteers, with the intention of mentoring new companion animal trainers and behavior consultants with practices steeped in evidence and based on building trust, security, and partnership. Melissa has started several shelter behavior volunteer programs and consults with other humane organizations on starting such initiatives of their own.

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