The Winnipeg Humane Society is trying to make its cats more comfortable, by switching up the way its volunteers interact with them.

A program at the Winnipeg Humane Society that had volunteers cuddling cats now includes other activities, to allow for better and more diverse interaction.

Manager of behaviour and intake Catherine McMillan designed a program that stimulates their species-specific behaviours, like play-chasing, hunting, and scratching.

"When they're cooped up and unable to perform those behaviours, it can often lead to frustration or even depression, and that in itself can have an impact on the animal's behaviour and their immune system as well."

McMillan says, while cuddling will remain a part of the program, exclusively cuddling can be quite stressful, and doesn't meet all the cats' needs.

"When I designed this program I needed to think like a cat. I mean, what does a shelter environment look like to the cats and how can we benefit them, and how can we improve their comfort in the shelter environment?"

She says studies show play to have a huge role in stress reduction.

McMillan says they're in the process of training 150 volunteers; 60-70 of them are already trained. The new program started December 4th. McMillan says volunteers have already reported cats being more willing to interact with humans.

McMillan says they're also encouraging clients to handle the cats at the shelter differently, playing with them with things like wand toys and bubble machines instead of just reaching for the cats.