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Adoption isn’t the only way to help homeless cats. Before you write off being able to help, think about your own unique skills to aid shelter cats. “Our goal is to place animals in caring homes, but there are many ways in which people can support the process leading up to this end goal,” says Jennifer Lu, communications manager at the San Francisco SPCA.
As is the case with many facilities, the San Francisco SPCA is funded solely by donations. But do you know how your money actually helps out the animals? Lu broke down some typical donation amounts and how the money can be used:
$15: a flea treatment for a kitten or adult cat
$50: test for cat feline leukemia or FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus)
$60: full medical exam for an incoming new cat
$90: microchip identification insertion and vaccinations for kitty
$120: cat spay or neuter surgery
Inga Fricke, director of Shelter Initiatives for the Humane Society of the United States, says she was recently touched by stories of young students who requested money to help their local animal shelter instead of accepting birthday or holiday gifts. Once the money is donated, sometimes shelters will offer personal tours or other fun rewards for students.
All sorts of services can be useful to shelters. Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary in Cypress, Texas, is seeking these donated services: printing, advertising, general contracting, electrical, plumbing, septic, concrete and brick work, landscaping and lawn service. The San Francisco SPCA is even looking for volunteers to staff the windows at Macy’s during the shelter’s big winter holiday adoption drive at the popular department store.
If you cannot adopt a cat but still enjoy spending time with felines, consider offering to bottle-feed kittens, an activity that Fricke says really assists many shelters. Just playing with kitties can work wonders too. “Our cat volunteers spend time with cats and kittens in the shelter to keep them well socialized and accustomed to visitors, which makes them more personable when prospective adopters come to visit,” explains Lu.
Foster a Cat
If you cannot take on the commitment of a full-time adoption, think about fostering a kitten or cat for a limited period of time. “Nearly 1,000 animals a year who are too young or ill to be immediately adopted are cared for by foster volunteers who nurse them and prepare them for adoption,” says Lu.
Contact Local Veterinarians
Perhaps the best way to help reduce the number of homeless cats is to prevent them from winding up in shelters in the first place. Encourage local veterinarians to offer low-cost spay and neutering, and to collaborate with neighborhood shelters. “Some veterinarians participate in free vaccination clinics or refer animal behaviorists that can help to socialize pets that are up for adoption,” says Fricke.
If You Are Allergic to Cats
If you love animals but are allergic to kitties, you can still help to reduce the number of homeless cats and improve the lives of those that are already in shelters. Fricke suggests organizing a food or blanket drive to obtain items desperately needed by animal care staff.
Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary has everyday-object needs, like cat litter, soap and newspapers, but medical and office supplies are also on its wish list, along with a van equipped with air-conditioning. A representative mentions that “the animals cannot be transported in Houston's sweltering heat without risking heat stroke. We really need another van to safely transport the animals.”
One of the easiest, most effortless ways to help is to do just what you are doing now: Go online. “We and other shelters are embracing social media as a way to promote programs and specific animals,” explains Lu. She asks that you look for your local shelter on Facebook and Twitter to see if they have pages at those sites. If so, with a simple mouse click, you can help to share information about events, fundraising and adoptable animals.
Jennifer Viegas is the managing editor of The Daily Cat. She is a journalist for Discovery News, the news service for the Discovery Channel, and has written more than 20 books on animals, health and other science-related topics.