Why I Became a Volunteer
I grew up with a wonderful little dog and assorted small animals. Later, when I was working many hours, I decided to get a kitten to keep me company because I felt cats were lower maintenance. One became two to keep each other company, and that began a 38 year odyssey of rescuing strays, keeping some and rehoming more (my limit was 5 in the house - I wasn't going to become a 'crazy cat lady.') I began volunteering 12 years ago at a very large shelter because I saw such a tremendous need to help homeless cats. Once you see the need and that you really can make a difference, if you have a heart, you can't turn away.
How I volunteer
I'm a Cat Care and Petfinder Volunteer at the Animal Rescue League in Pittsburgh, PA, the largest shelter in Western PA. We have 60-80 cats and kittens on the adoption floor at any given time; we take in several thousand every year. My focus is on advertising and helping to place the cats. I take photos and write creative profiles about the cats that are posted on Petfinder.com and on the shelter's own website. I spend time in a playroom or colony room with each cat I photograph to get to know its personality. Through these posts, which include my email address, and in person at the shelter, I work to help people find the right pet for their home.
When people visit the shelter, I try to make them feel welcome and comfortable. I talk with them to find out what kind of cat they are looking for, what their home is like, and try to match them up with a new feline friend or two. I also groom and socialize the cats, and clean cages when necessary. It's all part of just being there and seeing what is needed.
I'm lucky in that I am recently retired so I have more time to spend, both at the shelter and at home doing the necessary computer work. But for many years before I retired I spent a lot of weekend afternoons at the shelter. There are computer geeks and techno geeks, I guess you could call me an animal shelter geek :-)
- Some volunteers want to spend a couple of hours a week socializing the cats. Some only want to foster. Others want to be come more involved doing things like outreach, education or fundraising. All of these are critical to keeping shelters running. Take a good look at your own talents and skills and find a shelter in your area that lets you take the best advantage of what you have to offer. It will be so rewarding that you will keep coming back, even during the hard times. And there will be hard times. But once you find that you honestly do make a difference in the lives of these animals, you will be hooked!
What is the name, location, and URL of the group?
Animal Rescue League of Western Pennsylvania
6620 Hamilton Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15206
What is your favorite part of volunteering?
Placing a cat in a good home, especially a special needs cat or one that may have been with us for a while. The camaraderie of like-minded volunteers, and the company of so many wonderful cats!
What makes you saddest about volunteering?
Probably the worst is seeing so many uncaring people turning in their animals because they just don't want the responsibility and find that making lame excuses is easier. As a society, we are all responsible for so many unwanted pets. But for many, it's just easier to hand it off to someone else.
Share any other details of your volunteer work
I've started a blog for the cats at my shelter with photos and some stories about why they are with us.
Many people who come to the shelter are just amazed at where they all come from. Visit us at arlcatlady.wordpress.com