Ever wondered what a day in the life of an AWL animal attendant is like? The cats, dogs and rabbits at AWL need boundless amounts of care and support on their journey to their forever homes. The animal care team at AWL work tirelessly day in and day out making sure they're all as happy and healthy as pawsible while they wait for their furever furmilies. Come and walk a mile in the boots of one of our animal attendants, Caitlen, as she runs you through a day on the job!
8am - 9.30am: Hopping into a brand new day.
On a typical day I start by feeding the rabbits. I cut up some fruit and veggies and then mix them with a ¼ cup of pellets, and that's their breakfast. After breakfast I'll clean the rabbit pens and give them fresh water, litter, hay and newspaper. I'll then spend some time with the rabbits doing some enrichment. This can include new toys, pats (if they enjoy it) and some treats such as pinecones and hay in toys or toilet rolls.
9.30am - 11am: Meowving onto the cats.
After the bunnies I'll start feeding the cats and kittens. Some are on medication which can vary from stress and anxiety medication to antibiotics, so I make sure I give them their medication. I record if their food has been eaten overnight and if they have toileted as well as any other observations that I think need to be noted down. I have a notebook in the rooms to keep track of their eating habits as it's important that I find the food they like the most. This not only to ensures they're getting a good meal, but also ensures they get their correct amount of medication!
11am - 12.30pm: Working at the catwash.
After feeding all my designated rooms, I will begin to clean the pens. I clean with the most efficient disease reducing procedure, starting from cleanest (giving them fresh water), to bedding, to wiping over the pen and removing any mess left overnight, to the dirtiest (giving them fresh litter). Once I've cleaned a pen, I like to set up their main area in a way that's different to the day before. This promotes exploring the pen and gives them some different activities throughout the night. This can range from fresh bedding so they have some new smells, or spraying feliway on their bedding (this helps reduce anxiety), some new toys or anything they take interest in such as toilet rolls or straws. I like to place the toys around the pens - some pens have different levels so I like to place some toys on the top and middle level to promote enrichment, but it's also so I can see if they're engaging in play overnight. For some of the more nervous and shut down cats and kittens, I like to place some treats around the pen that encourage them to come out and explore while snacking on some tasty treats.
12.30pm - 2pm: CATching up on some playtime and enrichment.
After all the cleaning is done, I begin enrichment. This is the most important part of the day in my opinion! My aim with enrichment is to make them more comfortable with my presence and hopefully day by day they open up to me a little more. For most cats and kittens, I offer puree (which they love!) from an item such as a straw or a back scratcher so I'm not invading their space. Eventually they approach me for the puree and lick it off my finger. From here, the next step is being able to pat the cat while giving puree and hopefully then being able to have the cat approach me for pats without needing to provide puree.
Some shy cats are very close to a breakthrough and can always be seen playing with toys in the main area of their pen throughout the day. If they retreat to the safety of their cubby when I enter the pen, then come back out as soon as I leave, I use strategies to get them comfortable with my presence before going any further. For example, I'll place a dangling toy in the pen and control it from the outside, so they feel safer. My goal is to get them used to seeing my hand control the toys that they can play with, that way I can create positive experiences with them and let them know I mean no harm and just want to play. Eventually I hope to be able to go inside their pen and play with them without them fleeing. Whenever I see a shy cat playing with a toy, I sit in front of their pen and hold the toy to encourage them to engage in play. I complete my enrichment by marking on their pen sheet what I've done and ticking the appropriate behaviours. This not only monitors their behaviours for myself, but also for other staff and the behaviour team so they can see what kind of progress is being made.
2pm - 2.30pm: Lunch and Meowvie time.
I like to spend my lunchtime chilling out on my phone. But it's not just me who likes to chill out in front of a screen - I've found that cats and kittens LOVE Cat TV. This started as enrichment for the kittens in the nursery, but is now also being used as enrichment for shut down cats and kittens that are experiencing fear and stress. I have found three different types of videos that they like to watch - bird videos, mouse videos and “Cat TV” - which are basically different games for cats that they can watch and sometimes play with. I place an iPad up against the glass outside of their pens for them watch their shows on.
I have noticed two main behaviours when they're watching Cat TV. The first of the two is when the cat or kitten enjoys it so much, they sit in their main area watching directly in front. The second behaviour is when they're interested but remain in the comfort and safety of their cubby. The Cat TV encourages them to stick their heads fully out to get a good look and they become curious and relaxed. Some I can see watching from further inside their cubby, but they're definitely very interested and curious, and many of them soften up in their eyes, face and body. Some cats go from watching it from their cubby to coming out and watching it in the main area, this is so rewarding to see!
2.30pm - 4pm: The pawfect way to end the day.
I finish off my day by feeding all the rooms again, completing medications, topping up waters and marking if the animals have eaten and toileted throughout the day. Of course I also get some final cuddles in before I get to do it all again the next day!