Puerto Rico shelter kittens playing with their first toys ever!

Thanks to an incredible volunteer for the Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program at the University of Florida, many cats and kittens in Puerto Rico have toys to give them comfort and enrichment while they’re in the shelter. For many, this is their first toy ever!

The UF shelter medicine team has been working with a group of Puerto Rican shelters for the last two years. “The cats in these shelters had barren cages,” said Dr. Cynda Crawford, Director of the UF Shelter Medicine Program. “This is the first time they’ve been given enrichment to comfort them during their stay in the shelter.”

Happy black and white shelter kitten with toy

Stress has a huge impact on cats’ health and welfare, and there’s nothing more stressful than the chaotic atmosphere in a shelter. “We’re introducing the idea to the shelters that cats need things to reduce their stress in order to stay healthy and comforted,” Crawford said. “This is one thing we brought to them, to show how such simple enrichment improves both welfare and outcomes. Because the cats’ real personalities come out, and they show how playful they are, potential adopters are more inspired to take the cats home.”

The catnip pillows were made by one of the program’s longtime and biggest fans and volunteers. “For the kittens, these are the first toys they ever saw in their lives,” Crawford said. “Shelter staff were very happy to see how the cats reacted, and they’re so grateful for the kindness of this volunteer!”

At the City of San Juan Municipal Animal Control Shelter:

At the Humane Society of Puerto Rico: