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  • Working Cats

    Will Work for Food!


    Are you looking for a safe and eco-friendly way to control your pest problem?

    We have cats who can help!


    What are working cats?

    The cats in our Working Cat Program are those who are unable to be handled or are not suited to life in a traditional home. They will roam your yard, warehouse, barn, or property, helping you with your local rodent population. They are not social with people, preferring to keep humans at a safe distance. Most will only be visible in the evenings or at feeding time, but their trust may grow as they become more comfortable with you. Since they would not otherwise have options for live release, these cats have no adoption fee.
    All cats go home spayed or neutered, current on their vaccines, and microchipped. They might also be eartipped – this is where a small portion of the left ear is surgically removed, and allows neighbors to easily identify that the cat has been fixed.

    How are cats selected for the working cat program?

    We believe that cats deserve to have a loving home where they can spend their time inside, away from outdoor dangers, but recognize that some cats may actually experience greater stress or a lower quality of life when placed into a traditional home. Additionally, not many people want to adopt and bring a cat into their home that they may never be able to touch, meaning that these cats are not typically adoptable.

    We offer our cats time to decompress in the shelter, and have specialized behavior programs to help work through their behavior issues. There is a certain subset of cats that are unable to make these behavioral adjustments in our shelter or foster homes. We feel that the next best thing for the cats is to live out their lives spending time with cat companions where they are cared for but not forced to socialize with people. These cats join our Working Cat Program.

    What are the adoption requirements for working cats?

    Although they are not the biggest fans of people, these cats do require feline companions and need to be adopted in groups of at least 2-3 cats. Working cats feel safer and more confident when they have friends. The cats need access to a permanent structure to provide protection from the elements and predators. This is usually a shed, barn, or garage with an open window or pet door installed so they can freely come and go. They need to be given cat food and water daily - cats cannot live on mice alone, and daily feeding will not affect their desire to hunt.
    One of the largest risks to outdoor cats is traffic, so adopters should also live at least ¼ mile from any major/busy streets or highways.

    How do I keep my working cats from running away?

    When you bring your cats home, they need to be confined in a cozy escape proof space, such as a secure (ventilated) shed, fully enclosed tack room, or a large dog crate (which can be loaned to you pending availability) within a barn, warehouse, or garage. The confinement period needs to be a MINIMUM of 2 weeks, but 4-6 weeks is ideal to ensure they trust you enough to stick around. This time helps teach the cats that this place is their new home, that there will always be food to be found. It also gives them a chance to safely observe their new world.
    This process is 100% necessary to prevent the cats from immediately running off in search of their old home, or getting lost and not able to find a food source.
    You will have the best success building a bond and keeping the cats around if you build a routine with the cats during confinement. Try the following:
    • Provide canned food at the same time daily.
    • Create a special call such as a “Here, kitty, kitty” or a whistle for when you feed. They will associate this sound with you and with their dinnertime. This can be additionally useful in keeping track of the cats once they are released.
    • Sit near the cats and talk quietly or read to them so they get used to your voice.
    • Work on other tasks where they can see/watch you so they learn you are not a threat.

    Do I get to pick out the cats I take home?

    Our goal is to set you and the cats up for the highest degree of success that we can. We select the cats that will go home with you based on the location and type of property. We also match up cats that we see spending the most time together so that they feel more confident and adjust better to their new home. If you have special requests such as certain colors, or male vs female, you can include this in your adopter survey, and we will attempt accommodate these requests as we are able.

    How do I set up my space for working cats?

    Confinement Crate
    Confinement Crate
    The basic supplies you will need are:
    • Dry food
    • Canned food
    • Food/Water bowls
    • Litter box
    • Non-clumping litter
    • Hiding box: This can be a box or covered milk crate turned on its side, a cat carrier, or other container/house that will help the cat feel safe and protected.
    • Blanket or straw to line the hiding box. Blankets should be fleece or acrylic. Do not use towels or cotton blankets, as these absorb moisture from the air and can make the cats cold and damp.
    • Scratching boards & toys are useful enrichment items to have while the cats are confined. These items allow them to exhibit natural behaviors and decrease the stress of confinement during the acclimation period.
    • Confinement Crate if you do not have a small, secure space room for acclimating the cats. This crate should be 42”+ for 2 cats, and 48”+ for 3 cats.
    See our sample crate set up. Note that the hiding box is located in the back and faces sideways so that the cats are able to hide completely and are not threatened by hands approaching as you work in the space. The litter and food are at the front so it is easy for you to reach in the kennel without disturbing the cats too much. The crate is covered by a lightweight sheet to provide a feeling of security and decrease drafts.

    Will my working cats become friendly?

    Cats are curious by nature, and many will start to come out more often when the people they trust are nearby. They may watch while you work outside, but still run away if approached. 
    Some working cats will eventually warm up more and develop a better level of trust for their adopters/caregivers. They may rub up against legs or allow themselves to be touched while eating. Some may follow their people around. This human-social behavior is often a pleasant surprise, but shouldn’t be expected of your working cats.

    Are there special needs working cats?

    Occasionally, we have cats who need working cat placement that are seniors, missing an eye or limb, or have other medical conditions. We will always confirm with adopters that they can meet the special needs of the cat before adoptive placement. We buddy up our special needs cats with at least 1-2 other cats, or we can send them to homes that already have successful working cats in place.

    Ok, I think I’m ready. How do I adopt working cats?

    Since we strive to place most of our cats into secure home environments, we do not always have working cats available. If you can comply with the above home requirements, and are ready for working cats, you can submit an adopter survey at this link: Working Cat Survey and you will be contacted within 72 hours.

    All working cat adoptions are done by scheduled appointment only, and pickup is at our shelter – Pima Animal Care Center; 4000 N Silverbell Rd, Tucson. The cats must leave in a secure plastic or metal pet carrier – you can provide your own or we can loan one out to you if needed. They also must travel in the interior of the vehicle (no truck beds). 

    If you have additional questions about our working cat adoption program, you can reach our Cat Programs Coordinator by calling 520-724-5269 or email with this form.

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    Animal Care Center

    4000 N. Silverbell Rd.
    Tucson, AZ 85745
    Phone: (520) 724-5900
    Fax: (520) 724-5960


    Monday to Friday
    noon to 7 p.m.*

    Saturday & Sunday
    10 a.m. to 5 p.m.*

    *Must be checked in to wait list 45 minutes before close to be seen in adoption and admission department.

    Ajo Substation

    1249 N Well Rd
    Ajo, AZ 85321
    Phone: (520) 387-7502


    11 a.m. - 1 p.m.
    Wednesday: 11 a.m. - 1 p.m.
    Wednesday: 4:30pm-6:30pm
    Friday:  11 a.m. - 1 p.m.

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