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Pumpkin, a 12-year-old abandoned cat, was given a new home and a new life after being cared for at the Helen Woodward Animal Center in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif. Unfortunately, pumpkin is just one of millions of cats in need. According to the ASPCA, it’s impossible to determine how many stray cats and dogs live in the United States, but estimates for cats alone range up to 70 million.
This winter holiday season, help reduce that high number with one of these seven steps:
1. Adopt a cat. The No. 1 way to help is to open your home to a cat, even if you already have one or more in your family. Some shelters and organizations offer specials. For example, the Humane Society for Hamilton County in Noblesville, Ind., has operated a successful Purrsdays program, whereby all cats and kittens are 50 percent off on those special days. For a low fee, the owner gets a cat that’s been spayed/neutered, microchipped and vaccinated. Executive Director Rebecca Stevens points out that if conditions become overcrowded at her shelter, illnesses can more readily spread. “By reducing the number of cats in our care, our hope is to prevent the spread of illness and cramped quarters for the ones that remain.”
2. Foster a cat. If you haven’t lived with a cat before, or if you just don’t want to take on the long-term commitment of owning a pet now, fostering can be one option. “Fostering can be a great way to determine whether a pet fits into your lifestyle,” says Stevens.
3. Volunteer. During the holiday season, volunteering often takes on a new festive twist. For example, Macy’s and the San Francisco SPCA team up to create the much-anticipated Macy’s Holiday Windows, which feature kittens and puppies for adoption. The partnership has existed for 25 years now.
Says Jennifer Lu, communications manager for the San Francisco SPCA: “The holiday tradition is a wonderful expression of the holiday spirit in San Francisco. Volunteer with the San Francisco SPCA at Holiday Windows and be a part of the magic this season!” She explains that volunteers work over short shifts of about two hours, greeting the public, collecting donations and directing people to the SPCA adoption center inside Macy’s.
4. Donate. Consider making a one-time donation or a sustained financial contribution to your favorite shelter or animal organization. Most can usually inform you how your dollars will be spent to help cats in their charge.
5. Give the gift of adoption. If you know a friend or family member would like to adopt a cat, think about getting an adoption gift certificate instead of an actual kitty. Says Betsy McFarland, senior director of companion animals at The Humane Society of the United States: “The recipient of your furry gift may not be ready for the commitment involved with the lifetime care of a pet. Instead of a puppy (or kitten) among the presents, give the gift of adoption. Many shelters offer adoption gift certificates so the recipient can be actively involved in choosing the perfect pet who will share their home for years to come.”
6. Help via social media. Most major pet food companies have a strong presence at popular social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. Sometimes just clicking “Like” or sharing content can help feed homeless cats, since the companies often track such activity and tie initiatives to it.
7. Purchase specially marked packages of pet food. This time of year, some pet food companies are also donating food or money based on sales of their own products. It can be a win-win situation because you would be purchasing cat food anyway, and if the purchase helps to support a charity, the organization gains as well.
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.