Shelters around the country rescue thousands of cats every day from dangerous and often life-threatening situations. Many shelters are run entirely by volunteers and depend on their communities for labor, money, and supplies to continue their work.
Since each shelter will inherently have its own unique set of needs and requirements, it’s best to touch base with them before gathering supplies to donate. Your shelter, for instance, may have a dependable source of cat food but may be desperate for litter. Having that information can help you determine the best way to help.
Here are eight ideas to get you started.
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Even though shelters are generally run by non-paid volunteers, they need money to function and properly care for the cats they take in. Monetary donations will be used for generally shelter upkeep (electric or phone bills, plumbing or electrical issues, rent, insurance, etc.), direct cat care (veterinarian appointments, surgeries, medications, etc.), and other needs as they arise.
If you’d like to donate money to your local shelter but don’t have the funds to do it out of your own pocket, consider organizing a fundraiser or getting involved with a fundraiser your shelter is already planning.
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2. Your time
Your time can be donated to your local shelter in a number of ways. The most obvious way to volunteer your time is to work in the shelter itself. Shelters often count on volunteers to clean, feed cats, scoop litter boxes, groom, and transport cats to and from veterinarian appointments and adoption events.
Or maybe you have other skills that would benefit a shelter. Are you a writer capable of crafting press releases, blog posts, or grant proposals? Are you a graphic designer who can help whip up a stunning new website? Are you a carpenter? A plumber? An electrician? A painter? Most shelters would be thrilled to have access to your volunteered professional skills.
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3. Food (wet and dry)
Individual cats eat a lot. Multiply that by all of the cats that live at an average shelter and you can imagine the amount of cat food your shelter needs. Contact your shelter beforehand to see whether they have a preference for wet or dry food.
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Like food, shelters go through a massive amount of litter every day. Shelters will generally take whatever they can get, but if you’re going to buy litter specifically for donating it may be wise to check with your shelter beforehand to see if there is a preference for clumping, non-clumping, clay, or natural litter.
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Treats may seem like a luxury, but they can provide a necessary comfort in an environment where cats tend to feel a lot of stress and anxiety.
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Toys can play a critical role in helping shelter cats stay active, healthy, and happy. Anything from a ball with bells to a laser pointer will be put to good use.
Note that because of the quick spreading nature of diseases, fungi, and bacteria in highly populated areas, many shelters won’t accept used toys.
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7. Bedding and vertical space
Having ample bedding and vertical space (cat trees, perches, etc.) can go a long way in helping ease the tension inherent in an environment full of territorial cats.
Because of quick spreading diseases, carpeted cat trees and perches should be new when donated. All bedding should also be easily washable.
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8. Miscellaneous supplies
Each shelter will have its own list of miscellaneous needs, but many shelters have an ongoing need for items such as new litter boxes, litter scoops, grooming brushes, brooms, mops, paper towels, and trash bags. Contact your local shelter for a list of their specific needs.