Commonly Used Shelter Terms

Learn more about commonly used shelter terms and definitions.

I had some great feedback from my ‘Pet Questions from You’ post, and wanted to go into more detail with shelter/rescue terms. Below are some of the commonly used terms in a shelter or rescue environment:

 Feral cat: A feral cat is the offspring of a domestic stray cat, born in the wild. Because of their lack of human interaction, feral cats often appear unfriendly to humans.  

Feral cat colony: A group of feral (and sometimes stray) cats that live together in a certain area (ex. Apartment complex, neighborhood, behind stores or restaurants, etc).

TNR: Trap-Neuter-Return is a method of catching feral cats and sterilizing them (spay/neutering) so that they cannot reproduce.

Ear crop/Ear Tip: Part of some TNR programs will include cutting a small part of the cats’ ear, so that they can be easily identified as sterilized (spay/neutered).

Stray: A domestic animal that is lost or wandering at large.

Open Admission: A shelter/rescue that is open admission means that they will not turn away any animal that comes into its doors, regardless of breed, health status, temperament, or any other classifications. The Oakland Pet Adoption Center is open admission.

Euthanasia: the act of humanely putting an animal to death. Other euphemisms for euthanasia include ‘put to sleep’, ‘put down’, or ‘lay down’.  There are several different methods of euthanasia, the most common being intravenous injection and inhalants. The use of inhalants has been banned in many US shelters, so intravenous injections are by far the most utilized.

DSH (Domestic Short Hair), DMH (Domestic Medium Hair), DLH (Domestic Long Hair): These are different breed classifications of cats by terms of fur length.

No Kill:The most widely accepted definition of a no-kill shelter is a place where all adoptable and treatable animals are saved and where only unadoptable or non-rehabilitatable animals are euthanized (according to www.nokillnow.com)

I hope that the definitions of these terms has helped provide some clarification. If there are any other terms you've heard that are not mentioned here, please comment with them!

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Karen M Faett May 12, 2012 at 08:18 PM
How about altered and un altered? I didn't know what unaltered was when I adopted my male shelie. They told me they had found him unaltered. I wondered how they altered him until it was explained!
Alexis Shull May 12, 2012 at 11:15 PM
Great point, Karen! Unaltered means the animal has not been spay/neutered. Altered means that they have. Thanks for your contribution!
Karen M Faett May 13, 2012 at 05:51 AM
What shelter are you with? The one I was with was so far away. I am always looking for a place to volunteer to make "No more homeless pets" a reality, not to mention, closing pet stores!
Alexis Shull May 13, 2012 at 12:21 PM
Karen, I work at Oakland Pet Adoption Center in Auburn Hills. We would love to have you stop by and visit the shelter sometime! Check out our website for more information: www.oakgov.com/petadoption


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