Do you volunteer for a rescue or shelter? Come connect with others!

paziqi

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Hi! I wanted to start this thread, in the hopes of creating a space where those who volunteer for animal welfare organizations can connect with each other, share their stories and experiences, and receive support from others who volunteer.

So to start off, I'd like to tell you a little about myself, and my volunteer experience. My name is Jamie. I live on my own, currently with 5 cats. My oldest is 17, and my youngest is almost 2 years old. My 1st cat came to live with me in 1996, and I haven't been without a feline companion since then. I've had a total of 11 cats in that time, but never more than 6 at once.

I started volunteering at my county's animal shelter almost 2 years ago now. I had been looking for a way I could help the community during covid, but nothing really fit for me, and then I heard there was a need at the shelter. I went to help out for one week, and I've been going back every saturday since. My main job while I am there is to clean out the cat kennels and rooms and make sure everyone is fed and watered. If I have the time, I also like to socialize and play with the cats, but I rarely have the time. I also help with laundry on the rare occasion, do dishes, and scrub and disinfect the litterboxes that have to be replaced.

As I said, the shelter is the local county shelter, but it is managed by a non-profit animal rescue that started about 14 years ago. To me, it is amazing what this group has been able to do to improve the outlook for stray and abandoned pets in my county. Before the rescue took over, the shelter had the reputation of being the place where you took your pets to die. Cats in particular were never adopted out; just euthanized. I have my oldest for this very reason. She was a stray found by my nephews, and even at the ages of 3 and 4, they knew if they took her to the shelter, she would die. So I took her in instead.

The shelter now has no-kill status, and a 95% adoption rate. The staff are great people. Everyone of them loves animals, and wants the best for each creature that comes through the door. The same goes for the other volunteers that I have met, though most volunteers work with the dogs, and that's a different area, so I don't interact with them as much as I interact with the staff. We need more people to volunteer with the cats!

It can be stressful, frustrating, and at times sad working at the shelter. There are never enough people to do all the work. There are a lot of people who come to help with the dogs, but not as many help with the cats. I haven't the time to socialize with them like I would like to. Their basic needs have to be met first, and by the time that is done, I need to get home to take care of my crew. Why don't more people realize that cats need socialization, too? And there are the animals that don't make it. Too sick or too hurt to fix. An animal that if it had been given the proper care before it had arrived at the shelter, could have made it, but now it is too late.

But it is rewarding working there too. I know I am making a difference, and helping not only the animals, but also the staff. I see animals transformed, some coming from abuse and neglect; frightened of people, underfed and sick. I've seen so many change into loving, well cared for animals, eventually adopted into wonderful homes. Every saturday I walk in, and the first thing I do is look at the adoption board. I have my favorites, the ones I'm rooting for, and when I see their names up there, it's like the best christmas present, knowing they've finally gotten their forever home.

Some time ago, I had the thought that I see the worst of humanity while volunteering. The animals that have been neglected and abused got that way because of people. But, I get to see the best of humanity, as well, in the staff and other volunteers who are there everyday, through thunderstorms, and blizzards, and power outages - all to make sure those same animals get a second chance at their best life.
 

Furballsmom

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I had the thought that I see the worst of humanity while volunteering.
A while ago when I was volunteering, I recall the owner of that organization retired early, because unfortunately she wasn't able to have your positive perspective. Thank you for that :)

I get to see the best of humanity, as well,
 

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Hi paziqi paziqi Yes, I volunteer for a foster based cat rescue and I used to volunteer and be employed by another rescue some years ago.
You are absolutely correct that you do see both sides of humanity and some in the middle while working in rescue.
 

strider rose

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paziqi paziqi im interested in taking care of the cats at your shelter but dont know what city you are in? sent you a pm and hope to hear from you very soon
 

misty8723

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I volunteer at a local rescue for cats and dogs. Cats are in the facility either in cageless rooms, or in the back going through the process to become adoptable (making sure they're healthy, spayed/neutered, up to date on vaccines, etc.). From their website, they are "the oldest no-kill rescue organization in Wake County. At Second Chance, our mission is to champion homeless cats and dogs who are healthy or treatable in the quest to find their forever homes and engage with our community to promote responsible pet ownership–ultimately reducing future generations of homeless animals."

We adopted our first cats in 2005 from a different no kill rescue, but when we lost one of our original cats and wanted to get another one, we were directed to Second Chance. I fell in love with it there, the people who run the organization are awesome, and most of the volunteers I've have the opportunity to work with are also great people. I usually go on Saturday morning when I can get a slot as part of the cat care shift. They have two hours shift shifts a day, 4 volunteers and a shift leader. The dogs are usually all in foster, but occasionally there are some in the facility. There are volunteers who come in for dog walking and care, so we just take care of the cats. Depending on how many volunteers we have and how many cats, we have time to socialize and are encouraged to do so. We are almost never there only two hours. They also have facility care volunteers who do laundry, dishes, organize, etc., so we are free to just focus on the cats.

Growing up, my family had dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, chickens, geese, pigeons, mice. Since 2005, hubby and I have had 5 cats, never more than 2 at a time. I have been so tempted by some of the cats who come through the rescue but at our ages and the cost of cat care, we stick with two.
 

pearl99

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I volunteer at a shelter, have been since 2019, when I retired. I started cleaning kennels for the cats, and enjoyed meeting all of them but yes, there never was much time to visit with them.
So I then did the Kitty Comfort program, where we would get a list of no more than 6 cats that were depressed, fearful, anxious, not eating well, etc. and just play, pet, brush, talk to, give treats to- enrichment to help them be adoptable. So rewarding to see them blossom!!! Then get adopted.
I adopted one myself, Gracie in my signature, who has since passed. I enjoyed 3 years with her.
Now, I just do foster of adult cats and kittens. It's every bit as rewarding, and I haven't kept any- yet- because I have 3 of my own and that's plenty!
I also had pets growing up- dogs, cats, mice, gerbils, and I'd capture toads and keep them for a few days feeding them then let them loose...
I agree, I see the best in the workers and volunteers at the shelter.
 
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paziqi

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There are volunteers who come in for dog walking and care, so we just take care of the cats. Depending on how many volunteers we have and how many cats, we have time to socialize and are encouraged to do so. We are almost never there only two hours. They also have facility care volunteers who do laundry, dishes, organize, etc., so we are free to just focus on the cats.
I like the sound of how they have things set up for your volunteers at your shelter. It seems very well organized. We have a volunteer coordinator who is working to get more volunteers, but so far, I'm the only one there on a regular basis on saturday mornings. I know there's a gal who comes in on wednesdays, but I don't know of any other regulars who come for the cats. Our shifts are set up to be 3 hours, but I'm usually there longer, too.

I have been so tempted by some of the cats who come through the rescue but at our ages and the cost of cat care, we stick with two.
That is one of the hardest parts about volunteering! There are usually some that tug on my heart more than others, but I could find a reason to adopt pretty much every cat that comes in. I'm working very hard at not applying for one that is there right now.
 
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paziqi

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I volunteer at a shelter, have been since 2019, when I retired. I started cleaning kennels for the cats, and enjoyed meeting all of them but yes, there never was much time to visit with them.
So I then did the Kitty Comfort program, where we would get a list of no more than 6 cats that were depressed, fearful, anxious, not eating well, etc. and just play, pet, brush, talk to, give treats to- enrichment to help them be adoptable. So rewarding to see them blossom!!! Then get adopted.
I adopted one myself, Gracie in my signature, who has since passed. I enjoyed 3 years with her.
Now, I just do foster of adult cats and kittens. It's every bit as rewarding, and I haven't kept any- yet- because I have 3 of my own and that's plenty!
I also had pets growing up- dogs, cats, mice, gerbils, and I'd capture toads and keep them for a few days feeding them then let them loose...
I agree, I see the best in the workers and volunteers at the shelter.
Your Kitty Comfort program sounds amazing. We don't have anything like that where I volunteer.

I really want to foster at some point. My current cats would not let me, I don't think. I do worry I would find it too hard to let them go, but it seems like such a great way to help out the shelter, and the cats you are fostering.
 

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I SO admire folks who volunteer at their local animal shelter. I recently retired and am starting to figure out what to do with my free time.

I honestly think that volunteering at a shelter would be very, very hard for two reasons. Several of the previous postings have already mentioned my biggest fear: falling in love with every single cat and not being able to adopt them all. I think their little faces would just linger in my mind and I would be too sad leaving them behind!

The other reason, which maybe is silly: I would worry that the people coming to adopt are not going to give the cats the home they deserve! I am sure most people coming to adopt a cat or a dog have every good intention of being a wonderful owner, but I feel I would need lengthy background checks on everyone before I let a cat go! Do any of you who volunteer at shelters/rescues ever worry about this? Does your shelter do any home visits or interviews before adopting out an animal? I think that some over-crowded places just feel so grateful to find homes to make space for the next animal, they might not look carefully at the adopter.

Thank you, shelter volunteers for all you are doing!
 

misty8723

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I SO admire folks who volunteer at their local animal shelter. I recently retired and am starting to figure out what to do with my free time.

I honestly think that volunteering at a shelter would be very, very hard for two reasons. Several of the previous postings have already mentioned my biggest fear: falling in love with every single cat and not being able to adopt them all. I think their little faces would just linger in my mind and I would be too sad leaving them behind!

The other reason, which maybe is silly: I would worry that the people coming to adopt are not going to give the cats the home they deserve! I am sure most people coming to adopt a cat or a dog have every good intention of being a wonderful owner, but I feel I would need lengthy background checks on everyone before I let a cat go! Do any of you who volunteer at shelters/rescues ever worry about this? Does your shelter do any home visits or interviews before adopting out an animal? I think that some over-crowded places just feel so grateful to find homes to make space for the next animal, they might not look carefully at the adopter.

Thank you, shelter volunteers for all you are doing!
That's a fear of mine also, that they won't be given the best homes. And I know some of them aren't. The rescue I volunteer at does background checks on everyone before adopting, but you never really can tell. My cat Austin was in a foster home and was adopted out with his brother. The people first brought the brother back, then brought Austin back. Austin was peeing outside the box, and they never bothered to take him to the vet. His former foster mama said she hadn't liked the people who adopted, but since they passed the check there wasn't anything she could do (which I personally think is wrong. If you have a "sixth sense" follow it). I believe she was very happy we decided to adopt him, she knew he would be spoiled and well taken care of. He's such a perfect little guy.

They do not do home checks, but that's in their adoption papers that they can do that. I don't know if they ever follow up on it. Our rescue is not overcrowded usually, and they go periodically to the kill shelters to rescue from there where we have more cats than normal, but they move them through the process as fast as they safely can.

One of the things that break my heart is the stories you hear about some of the animals came to be in our rescue. And or course the ones who pass especially if they've been there awhile, pretty much tears me apart. But I still think it's worthwhile to do it. I'm so grateful for them to commit to an animal for the life of the animal, and that includes maintaining their health and well being for as long as possible if they don't get adopted. And their policy to take back any animal that was in their program with no questions asked. Before I volunteered, we had adopted a cat, she was sweet and can be to us but was bullying our other cat to the point he wouldn't come out of the closet. With tears in our eyes, we took her back and explained, and they were so nice to us. Introduced us to another cat who would be a better fit and wouldn't even allow us to pay the adoption fee.

If you are interested in giving it a try, I would recommend looking for a no kill rescue in your area and investigating them.
 

misty8723

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I volunteer at a shelter, have been since 2019, when I retired. I started cleaning kennels for the cats, and enjoyed meeting all of them but yes, there never was much time to visit with them.
So I then did the Kitty Comfort program, where we would get a list of no more than 6 cats that were depressed, fearful, anxious, not eating well, etc. and just play, pet, brush, talk to, give treats to- enrichment to help them be adoptable. So rewarding to see them blossom!!! Then get adopted.
I adopted one myself, Gracie in my signature, who has since passed. I enjoyed 3 years with her.
Now, I just do foster of adult cats and kittens. It's every bit as rewarding, and I haven't kept any- yet- because I have 3 of my own and that's plenty!
I also had pets growing up- dogs, cats, mice, gerbils, and I'd capture toads and keep them for a few days feeding them then let them loose...
I agree, I see the best in the workers and volunteers at the shelter.
The kitty comfort program sounds awesome. We don't have anything like that, but they will put up signs, like this one is a social eater spend more time with them, etc. One example was probably a couple months ago, we had a social eater. So I sat on the floor and spread my gown out and put the food on it so she could come out there and eat. It worked great, so I passed that info along for anyone on the other shifts who wanted to try it. I've been known to hold the bowl white the cats eats. Whatever works.
 

fionasmom

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Shelters and rescues, like anything else, run the gamut from good to bad. In the case of a shelter, there might be legitimate problems with a huge number of animals, many of whom will never be adopted.

If you want to volunteer, there is probably one out there which would fit your comfort level. There is nothing wrong with knowing what your limits are. I know a woman locally who goes with her husband on the weekends and walks dogs at an LA county shelter, a sort of grim one, who are probably never going to make it out. She sees this as having been able to show them some love, at least, along the way. To me, this is phenomenal that she is able to espouse this outlook. Often, when they return the next weekend, those dogs are gone.

The dog rescue I worked with was well intentioned, but overwhelmed. Dogs were adopted out way too easily in crunch times and home checks were not done, although they were allowed in the contract. The cat rescue was much better. A controlled number of cats, kept until they found a home. The woman who ran it also drove a van to FixNation which meant that tons of cats were TNRed and never had the chance to reproduce, both feral and pet cats.

There is a huge need for help in the world of rescue and a lot of different ways that shelters and rescues operate, so it is usually possible to find one that lets you feel as if you are helping but also allows you to feel comfortable while you are there.
 
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paziqi

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There is no way to guarantee every home will end up being a forever home, unfortunately. Our shelter uses non-family references and vet references as part of the process for approving potential adopters. It is not as thorough a system as some, and I do wonder about that sometimes, but we also do need to get these animals into homes. I have one friend who would have made an excellent adopter who was scared away by our adoption application. That is not something we want to see happen either.

I think as fionasmom mentioned, it is very important that if you are going to volunteer, you are able to find an organization that you are comfortable with, and that you trust. Because in the end, that is what it is going to come down to. You have to be able to trust that they are going to do the work necessary to try and make sure the best possible outcome happens for each animal. And even then, you need to be able to accept that sometimes it isn't going to work out, because people change, circumstances change, and bad things happen that are outside anyone's control.
 

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I volunteer at our animal shelter. It’ll be 4 years in October. I photograph all of our cats, post them on our Facebook page, field questions, set appointments and sometimes do the actual adoptions. There are so many rewarding moments but some really hard ones too.
 
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