The holiday and winter period can be especially difficult for stray and shelter cats and the shelters themselves. If you have been thinking about helping cats in need, the holidays are the perfect time to start! Try one of these 10 ways to help cats this holiday and if you enjoy it, consider making it a regular activity – the cats you help are sure to appreciate it!
1. Become a foster family
Fosterers are highly important to the rescue and shelter system. Becoming a foster parent means that the cats you take in will not only be able to wait for their forever home in a comfortable and loving environment of their own (as opposed to in a cage at a rescue) and get used to living in a real home, but also means that more cats will be able to be taken in off the streets and given a warm place to stay, consistent meals, and access to a vet. Having a foster cat over the holidays will make both your and your foster cat’s holiday more enjoyable!
2. Host a fundraising event
The holidays are a great time to set up a fundraising event and get creative. Why not put on a holiday bake sale, offer gift wrapping services, host a Christmas jumper day, go caroling, or whatever other fun and festive fundraising ideas you can come up with, donating the proceeds to your local rescue. If the event is a success, consider setting up themed fundraising activities throughout the year.
3. Donate items to your local shelter
Get your house looking fresh for guests by having a holiday clean out and donating relevant items you don’t need to your local shelter. From towels and blankets, to office supplies, and cat toys, you’ll be surprised by how many everyday household items your shelter can make use of. See a list of common household items needed by shelters here and be sure to ask friends, family, and co-workers if they have any items to donate too.
If you have some spare time, volunteering is still one of the most important ways to help shelters. It can be super fun too! Check with your local shelters to see when and with what they need help with. Even if you can only commit to a small amount of time each week, the shelter cats and full time staff will be grateful of the help. Whilst cleaning cages and litter boxes, feeding cats, and administering medications are likely (and important) tasks you will help with, shelters also look for volunteers who can take great pictures of cats, write copy for adoption captions and marketing materials, help with social media, drive cats to foster homes, adoption events, or vet appointments, and more!
5. Get social!
If you don’t have a lot of free time but want to help cats or want to do something extra on top of other activities, don’t forget the power of social media in helping cats and shelters. Share posts of cats waiting for foster homes/ call-outs for fosterers, as well as call-outs for supplies, volunteers, drivers needed etc. Even if you can’t fulfill the request, someone in your network (that would not have been aware of the shelter’s needs without you sharing their posts) may be able to.
6. Give or request shelter merchandise as a gift
Many shelters produce an annual calendar and more and more are producing other merchandise such as apparel, mugs, and stationary with all profits going to helping the shelter. Whether you make a wish list or are buying gifts for other animal lovers, shelter merch can make a sweet and thoughtful holiday gift. Best Friends Animal Society has a great selection of products or check your local shelter’s website to see if they sell merchandise.
7. Donate or set up a donation campaign
Shelters always need donations and the holidays are a great time to give what you can. Or consider setting up a fundraising campaign and ask that anyone who was going to get you a gift, donate to the campaign instead. These can be promoted through your social networks and also work great for other special occasions such as birthdays, anniversaries etc.
8. Adopt Don’t Shop
If you’re adding a furry new family member over the holidays, be sure to adopt from a shelter instead of buying from a breeder or pet store. Cats in shelters will be very appreciative of you adopting them (especially if they have been there a long time) and the fees given to the shelter and space created through adopting cats out helps them out greatly. Be sure to always talk with shelter volunteers about the cat you intend to adopt, your holiday plans, and if they will be able to settle in well. Moving from a shelter or calm foster home to a new house with added stressors such as streams of guests (especially children), loud noise from celebrations etc. can make your new cat more stressed and scared than if they had spent the holiday in the shelter. If that is the case, “reserve” your cat and come back and collect them after the holidays when your home will be more calm and cat friendly.
9. Add thinking about cats to your daily routine
During the colder winter period, stray and feral cats search out the warmest spots they can. This can mean however that they seek shelter inside car hoods (or in some cases in the wheels) or will sneak into other warm places such as garden sheds where they could get stuck. Before driving, make sure to check your car and bang on the hood. And make sure you check enclosed areas such as sheds or garages before locking doors for cats hiding inside. If you do find homeless cats, call your local shelter. They could be stray cats that would benefit from being re-homed, a feral that needs some vet treatment or to be spayed/neutered, or could even be someone else’s lost cat.
10. Help feral cats
A lot of feral cats are wild animals that cannot be adopted into a home, however this doesn’t mean you can’t help them in the winter time (or even all year around!) If you know you have feral cats in your area, make them a warm and safe shelter with this easy D.I.Y. You can also put food and water down for them (although make sure they don’t become dependent on it). As mentioned, if you notice new feral cats, always get in touch with your local shelter or TNR (trap/neuter/return) group. Getting feral cats neutered or spayed is beneficial to their health and the well being of other feral and stray cats. It can also be determined if the cats could be placed in homes. Whilst most will be returned to their outside habitat, some feral cats can do well in homes and you may even have found a stray domestic cat (a scared stray cat can seem feral) who would love to be placed back into a caring household.