Volunteering at a Cat Sanctuary

Many cat lovers want to give back – and what better way to do so than by volunteering your time. Today we have a guest post by Stephanie Lynch on one aspect of volunteering. The pictures in this post are from when I volunteered at Cat World at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in October 2015. ~Rachel

Volunteering at a Cat Sanctuary

By Stephanie Lynch

Do you love cats? If you’re looking into volunteering at a cat sanctuary, it’s probably safe to say that you are a feline enthusiast. Volunteering your time at a shelter for cats can be a very rewarding experience, but it can also be hard work. Here are some things to consider when volunteering at a cat sanctuary.


Having Experience with Cats

This may seem obvious, but a lot of people who want to volunteer with animals do not have much experience. While a cat sanctuary will offer you full training, you should still have some personal experience in dealing with cats, even if you don’t have one of your own.

Practice being around cats. Your neighbor or friend may have a cat you can pet sit or play with if you do not have your own cat. Try interacting with cats you see. Learn some cat language so that you can approach them gently and make friends.


Learn to Work with People Too

While working with cats will be the main focus of your volunteer duties, you will also have to work with people. If you’re not accustomed to being part of a team, or taking orders, you will need to get used to this before volunteering.

You may also have to put aside some personal beliefs or feelings in order to work well on a team. Some sanctuaries may have rules or regulations that you disagree with. But regardless of how you feel, you must obey these rules if you want to maintain a successful volunteer position.


Be Prepared to Work Hard

Working with animals can be hard work. You should be aware that you may be very active on some days. You may do heavy lifting, such as carrying large bags of cat food, or you may have to stand for long periods of time. This may be taxing on certain individuals who are not used to this amount of labor.

Besides the physical labor, working at a cat sanctuary can be mentally and emotionally tiring too. Are you prepared to work hard in the office, answering a telephone or talking to visitors? And are you emotionally prepared to be around animals that deserve good homes but may never get them? What about answering complicated questions such as the cost of a cat procedure or why a cat isn’t being adopted?


Be In It for the Long Haul

Some shelters and sanctuaries require a time commitment from their volunteers. You may be asked to agree to as much as a year of volunteering before you are signed on. This is because working with animals requires dedication. Cats are creatures of habit, so any changes to their routine can be stressful.

Along with being committed, you will also need to be flexible. You may be asked to work extra hours some weeks, or to help out at special fundraisers during certain times of the year.

These are just a few of the important things to consider when you are preparing to volunteer with cats. Working at a cat shelter can be a lot of fun, but it will never be all play and no work, so be prepared!


About the Author

Stephanie Lynch works with howmuchisit.org, a cost-helping database that helps consumers find out what the unknown costs in life are. She has written on many topics regarding the costs of caring for a cat. In her free time, Stephanie enjoys hiking, biking and spending time with her family and two cats.

Have you ever volunteered at a cat sanctuary? What are some other things to consider?

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24 thoughts on “Volunteering at a Cat Sanctuary

  1. Mom says that if our numbers ever decrease, she would love to work at the shelter. Now we just give food, money and supplies on a regular basis. XOCK, Lily Olivia, Mauricio, Misty May, Giulietta, Fiona, Astrid, Lisbeth and Calista Jo

  2. The peeps’ favourite animal shelter is about forty minutes away on the highway so they’ve had to find other ways to help. Peep #1 organizes a bake sale every year in the fall, and a plant sale in the spring and right now, she’s knittin’ up some stuff for an on-line auction. Purrs, Seville.

  3. Great post! Our Mom and Dad agree this is hard, but very rewarding work. They especially enjoy learning cat language and communicating back. They say there is nothing quite like the heart feelings of knowing one has made lifelong friends not only with the shelter humans but with the cats themselves.

  4. ANYONE who volunteers anywhere to help animals have a better life temporarily or permanently is an angel! Volunteers do so much for so many for so little – it’s love in the purest sense of the word……..thanks for all you do.

    Hugs, Sammy and Mom Pam

  5. Great post! Thanks to Stephanie. When you volunteer at a cat sanctuary, you also have to be prepared to clean up after the cats and not just litter boxes. You will be doing lots of laundry every day. That’s the trouble my friend always had at A Call 4 Paws, no one wanted to do the dirty work.

  6. These are good tips! I am the volunteer web site admin for our local volunteer group that works with the county shelter, and I help financially. It is hard emotionally for me to work in the cat room at the shelter because our county shelter, which is run by the county, is not no kill. I need to get over myself though.

  7. Thanks for sharing this. I recently started volunteering at our local shelter in the cat room. It mostly involves cleaning cages and feeding the cats, but there is lots of interaction with the cats waiting to find their forever homes. Sometimes it’s difficult seeing them in cages, but over all it’s been a worthwhile experience. ~The Mom

  8. Great post. I will say, being a volunteer at a rescue and also having volunteered at Best Friends, there is a difference. The day to day work of your local rescue is much different from taking a week and vacationing at a sanctuary. But you definitely have to be prepared to work, follow the rules and participate. But remember too that it should be fun!

  9. Well written and informative. I also liked the focus on the emotional aspect of working with cats that won’t ever have homes. Reading stories of animals abused or abandoned, etc is the worst part of blogging for me. Sometimes I just want to quit but then I remind myself the cats can’t just quit either.

  10. Excellent post. I would love to volunteer to work with cats, but I would want them all. Instead, I make toys to donate to shelters. I admire everyone who does volunteer in shelters and sanctuaries.

  11. These pictures bring back such great memories of our visit to Best Friends!

    I agree with her point about the emotional cost of working with cats who may never get a home. That can be pretty intense and overwhelming. I have always volunteered at no-kill shelters, but I’m soon going to start volunteering at animal care and control. I know it’s going to be rough, but I’m determined to do it because I know these are the animals who need it the most.

  12. Volunteering at the shelter can be hard at times, but it is such a privilege to help these magnificent creatures enjoy the best lives possible. We get so much more than we give. :)

  13. Yes, volunteering at an animal shelter is tough work and you do need to be able to work with a team. If you’re a newbie you may need to learn the ropes and it’s not always the role you think you’ll have! The work is super rewarding though no matter what – you get used to the routine quick!

  14. I’d love to volunteer at a shelter or sanctuary. Unfortunately right now, I work multiple jobs and have 9 animals of my own to take care of, so I don’t have extra time to volunteer. Instead of volunteering my time I donate money, food, items, etc. to the rescue that several of our kitties were adopted from. Thanks for sharing!

  15. I love volunteering, and each time it looks a little different. Most often, I foster kittens when they need it, but occasionally it is playing with them, changing litters, or even photographing their animals as get ready for adoption. You won’t believe the difference a good photo makes! xx SoPurrfect team

  16. Hey, all! Just wanted to check in and say thank you to everyone for the kind words. Volunteering IS hard work, but we all know it’s worth it in the end :)

Any thoughts to share?

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