Voluntary Work at a Cat Shelter: If you want something, make it happen.

Like many 7 year olds, a popular song on the soundtrack of my childhood was ‘mummy, daddy, can we get a cat?’ For extremely good reasons, the answer was always no. 14 years later, I still love cats, and I still want one. I don’t live with my parents anymore, but I do have a landlord, who also, quite sensibly, doesn’t want animals on his property.

This is a bit of a double sided article. The take home message is really: providing it’s not going to hurt anybody or yourself, if you want something, you should go and get it. For me, that something is cats. Last summer, I decided to stop being sad about the fact that I don’t have a cat in my life, and go out and help cats in need. My local cat shelter said I could start right away, and since then I’ve been back every weekend.

To anyone who is interested in this kind of volunteering, I really recommend it for the following reasons:

  1. If you’re considering getting a cat, it gives you a feel of what is involved, from the stage when they’re tiny kittens, to when their fur gets matted and there’s a small chance they might poo on your jeans whenever they sit on your lap. It’s basically a fairly good reality check as to whether you’re willing to care for an animal in sickness and in health.
  2. It’s a good stepping stone for people like me, who aren’t at a point in life where they’re able to provide a home for a cat. I’ve had hours of fun playing with those bundles of joy!
  3. It’s a great place to meet like-minded people in your area, from all walks of life.
  4. You’re really helping to increase the quality of life for these animals. They just had the back luck of being an unwanted pregnancy, or being born and left on the street in a cardboard box. If you help out, you’re taking some of the load off the permanent staff who do the vital work that keeps the shelter open.  You’re also exposing the cats to new faces and more human interaction, which can work wonders for shy cats. There have been many occasions where I’ve gone along one week, to see a stray cat that hides in the corner and hisses at anyone who goes near it, then gone back the next week to find that it has become friendly and trusting. I think that encouraging the cats to come out of their shell is such an important step in preparing them for adoption. 

    Of course, all shelters are different but my local one teaches the following routine; sweep the floor of debris, spilled food and fur, wash all surfaces and walls with warm diluted detergent, and mop the floor with the same solution. All hard toys and water bowls are taken out, disinfected and replaced, along with fresh litter trays placed on top of newspaper. The staff go into the room later and give out the food. We all wash and dry the litter trays, line them with newspaper and kitty litter, and stack them ready for the next day. Of course, there’s time for cuddling as well. It’s so great to see cats come and go, all of them being re-homed to loving families.

    So yes, if you’re a ‘cat person’, and have a bit of free time, I’d recommend checking out your local shelter – you never know what fluffy eared friends may be waiting for you there! And on a more general note, although my dream involved cats, whatever you really want, find a way to do it, and then do it. You’ll thank yourself later!

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