A Reader’s Experience Working At A No-Kill Cat Shelter

Trisha has written for us before. She’s charming young lady who’s always got something to say. This time it’s about her experience as a volunteer at a no-kill cat shelter with some tips on how a volunteer can ease the load for employees so they can get more done.

As a former volunteer I’ll add a bit about how being a cat shelter volunteer has hidden perks for people. During my orientation at the San Francisco SPCA they said that many volunteers reported that their time there was better than therapy. I took that to mean: “Walk in depressed, walk out happy and at peace.” One high school aged girl who was trapped at her abusive parent’s house until she turned 18 said she could tell the cats all of her problems which became less of a burden because the cats listened. Others said that it gave them a mental health break from their own mind’s chatter. And dog walkers reported significant weight loss.


My Experience Working At A No-Kill Cat Shelter

By Trisha Miller

For the last 8 months I’ve had the pleasure of volunteering weekly at a no-kill cat shelter near me, called Simply Cats. Due to time constraints I’ve had to stop volunteering for the time being, but I enjoyed every second of it. If you have a few hours of your day to dedicate to a shelter in your area, I highly suggest that you do so. Even if on a small scale, I knew that I was making a difference in these cats’ lives. I was helping to provide them with a safe, clean home and did my best to provide them comfort. What’s more, I helped to relieve some of the full-time staff so they were able to attend to critical matters that demanded their attention. If you’re wondering if volunteering is right for you, I’d like to share my experience with you and hopefully help you form your own conclusion.

Why Volunteer?

I started volunteering at my local shelter simply because I’m a cat lover and I had a free day each week with nothing to do. Why not help out some cats and make the lives of the shelter employees a little bit easier. In addition, one of my two cats is a rescue cat, and sadly was not living at a no kill shelter. If I wouldn’t have chosen to take him home I’m afraid the worst possible imaginable scenario might have taken place. That being said, I have a soft spot in my heart for rescued animals.

If your local shelter is anything like mine, then you’ll agree that shelter employees have very little time to do so many tasks, and can really use the help. Running the shelter, greeting guests, accepting cats, and trying to organize events is more than enough to make an employee feel overwhelmed, I’m sure.

On top of all of that, my local shelter has about 20 individual rooms that house cats in each. These rooms need to be attended to twice per day. When you have, on average, two or more cats in each room, the room gets messy in a hurry. They need someone to clean up the mess and to just be with the cats and comfort them during their stay.

My Job Duties

My assignment at my particular no kill shelter was to clean the rooms of the cats. As I mentioned before, this needed to be done twice per day. So, I stepped in for an earlier shift on my off day, which only took up about 2 hours of my day. I would scoop litter, clean all surfaces, sweep and mop, and make sure the cats had fresh water. After I was done making sure their living area was sparkling clean, I was able to just enjoy my time with the kitties, play with them, and pet them (the best part!).

As volunteers we also had the opportunity to spread awareness about the shelter via social media and throughout the community. My shelter has regular events that we were encouraged to attend in order to help raise funds to keep the shelter open and get the cats all the necessities for maintaining a fulfilled and happy life while they are at the shelter.

What You Need to Know

A friend of mine recommended that I volunteer at the shelter because she is currently a volunteer as well. We discussed the possibility back and forth and among my many other delights, I was especially happy to volunteer for a no-kill shelter. However, even if you choose to volunteer at a no-kill shelter, you should prepare yourself for some things you might see or learn during your stay.

Some cats do come from hoarding or abuse situations. My local shelter has a veterinary staff on hand to help any kitties that need medical attention. You may come into contact with cats that have illnesses or impairments due to their neglect or abuse. So, you’ll want to mentally prepare for that before you walk in the door. As heartbreaking as it is to see, all of the cats that I encountered with illnesses or impairments were completely healed, thanks to the dutiful veterinary staff, and were as full of life as any other cat I came across in the shelter.

All in all it was an absolutely wonderful experience that I am sad has come to a temporary close. I plan on volunteering again as soon as my schedule opens up again and I suggest that you do the same if you are able. There is simply no experience like it. It is extremely gratifying, fulfilling, and rewarding!

Have you volunteered at a shelter? I’d love to hear about your experience 🙂
 
 
 
 

All About 3-Legged Cats

One of our favorite customers, Kelleen (Kelly) has a feline-family of 4 “tripod” cats a clever name for cats who have only 3 legs. She was delighted to share their story and photos with our customers and readers. Here’s her story about her tripod cats!

Read more:



 
From Kelly: Elixir

 
 

Tripod cats have a special place in my heart, and a big place in our family. Between myself and my daughter, we now have four three-legged cats – as well as one four-legger!

In our minds and theirs, our tripods are just cats – active, curious, playful, and loving. Missing body parts or no, these resilient little beings are amazing, gorgeous animals, each with their own distinct personality, deserving of love and pleased to give it in return. They don’t have any pain related to their missing limbs, and are not bothered at all by their differences, still approaching everything with a cat’s “can-do” attitude.

Living with tripod cats is not much different from living with their 4-legged counterparts, except they are perhaps a bit noisier as they thump around the house and scrabble to climb things. There are a few factors to consider, though, when deciding to adopt one (or if your cat is injured and loses a limb). For example:

  • Litter boxes need to be larger because they can lose their balance and go outside the box – but at the same time, the sides can’t be too high because they need easier access.
  • It’s important not to overfeed tripods, as too much body weight will make it much more difficult for them to remain active and navigate their surroundings on 3 legs.
  • It is more difficult for three-leggers to run or climb to get away from predators, so it’s best for them to be indoor-only cats. I built a fully enclosed catio outside my back door so my four can spend time in the sun being cats – chasing snakes and voles, watching birds, climbing tree limbs, and relaxing in the grass – while they remain safe from our resident eagles, raccoons and neighborhood dogs.
  • Some toys are better – for example, all three of mine, who are each missing a rear leg, love the Kitty Kicker-style toys that they grab with their front legs and kick at with that extra-strong back leg of theirs. They love ground-level scurrying toys they can “catch and kill” also. Toys that dangle in the air are not so enjoyable because with only one rear leg tripods can’t stand up and swat or jump up to bat them out of the air.

Not all tripod cats are the same, of course, or have the same needs. Cats missing a front leg are sometimes more likely to hide or to use their teeth – just as cats who have been declawed may – because they feel they can’t protect themselves or communicate their displeasure with their claws. Cats missing rear legs have a harder time climbing, balancing on narrow walkways, and “landing” gracefully when they jump. There are also differences between those who lost limbs as adults and those who grew up already missing a limb. Our three who lost limbs as adults sometimes still try to jump/climb on things that they can’t handle because they seem to forget that the leg is missing!

The wonderful characters of our quartet of tripods and the enjoyment they have brought into our lives make it well worth the bit of extra thought and work involved in creating a fun, healthy, safe environment for them. They may be missing some parts, but they make our family whole!


Here is some background on our tripod family:

Our family’s very first cat was a tripod who lived in a home with too many animals that bullied and terrorized the little 3-legger who couldn’t get away or fend the others off from his food. My daughter, who has always had a soft spot for the underdog (or undercat, as it were), asked the family if she could have him, and brought him home so he would have a loving, quiet home where he would be protected and cherished. Although I had always been a “dog person” (who liked cats but had no particular interest in having one as a pet), I soon fell in love with little Prince Arcane and was on my way to becoming a “cat person” as well!


 
Arcane

 
 

Because Arcane was officially my daughter’s cat, I adopted a lovely little silver tuxedo girl of my own (who still has the use of all four of her legs), but Juju was not a very feline-social cat and wanted little to do with Arcane, who always wanted to play with her. I watched him trying to play, and her rebuffing him and simply removing herself to someplace he couldn’t get to, and I always felt badly for him. When I saw a feisty young male flame-point come in to the shelter who needed to have his back leg amputated (it had been broken in multiple places and the previous owners had tried to set the leg themselves instead of taking him to a veterinarian), I thought how perfect it would be for both of the tripod boys to have someone to play with, so Ozymandias joined our family. The two boys became fast friends and wrestling partners, thumping around the house after each other and taking each other down with WWE-like body slams.


 
Juju

 
 


 
Ozymandias

 
 

Since then, my daughter moved out with a roommate, taking Arcane with her. I knew Ozzie would drive Juju crazy chasing her around wanting to play, and wanted a playmate for him. Since I already had the house catified and the catio designed for the needs of 3-legged cats, it was a given that I might take in another tripod if the right one happened along. Coincidentally, a litter of 4-month-old kittens had been brought in from a local feral colony a couple of months before. The entire litter was ear-tipped and placed into the shelter’s barn cat program, but one was found to have an injured leg that would not heal and had to undergo amputation. Although she was still very skittish, she could not go to a barn home due to her missing leg, so one of our cattery volunteers, knowing my setup at home, suggested I meet her. Though my plan had been to get an adult male cat as a companion for Ozzie, I could not pass on little Alchemy once I met her. She came home with me, and after an extended introduction period she and Ozymandias are the playmates and bosom buddies I had hoped they would be!


 
Alchemy

 
 

My daughter noticed that Arcane seemed at a loss alone at their new home, and her roommate had always wanted a cat of his own, so when just a few months later another laid-back young black male cat had to undergo an amputation of a shattered rear leg, I immediately offered to help the kids adopt him. Elixir is now comfortably ensconced in his new home and gradually becoming friends and playmates with his “brother from another mother.”
 
 


 
Elixir

 
 

 

 

Tax Time Deductions for Fostering Cats!

While we cannot claim our cats for a tax deduction the Tax Men will allow expenditures for fostering cats. This will be great news for many of you for this year, and something to consider for next year.


Newton’s Purrspective – Tax Time

Yes, my friends – once again it is that time of year. Spring is in the air, but now people are stressed out over tax time. If only they could relax with some Cat Faeries toys and chill out in a Cat Faeries bed. Perhaps there is a human equivalent for “Calm and Serene Flower Essence”?

I know many wonder (only half in jest) if they can use Fluffy as a deduction. After all, you provide food, housing, and medical care (though there is little need for clothing or a college fund). And cats are family! Sadly, the IRS only accepts humans as deductions.




Isaac Newton

However, there is good news for cat foster parents. http://catingtonpost.com/if-you-foster-a-cat-you-can-claim-it-on-your-taxes/ You may be able to deduct expenses incurred fostering cats. Of course, there are a few rules you must follow.

Here are the two most important ones.

  • First, you must file Form 1040 and itemize deductions.
  • Second, the organization you foster for must be recognized by the IRS 501(c)(3) designation as a Not-for-Profit organization.

You may already know that you can deduct contributions to a qualified not-for-profit if you receive no services or merchandise in return. For example, donating money or a bag of cat food can be deducted. But, if you donate the same things and receive a t shirt in return you can no longer use the deduction. You bought the t shirt so it has become a business transaction.

You will need to keep your receipts and have documentation from the not-for-profit if your contribution is greater than $250.00. To avoid misunderstandings and other problems I recommend checking the IRS rules https://www.irs.gov/uac/top-eight-tax-tips-about-deducting-charitable-contributions and consulting with a tax expert. Sure, you can tell them (the tax experts, not the IRS) that a cat sent you.

Here is the basic situation. Let’s say you are fostering kittens for a properly registered not-for-profit shelter. Let’s also assume they do not provide any money or supplies.

You may be able to deduct the cost of carriers, food, kitty litter, veterinary bills etc. If you have a special area of your house used only for foster kittens you might even be able to deduct a portion of utilities. I know there are many good hearted people spending their own money to take care of kittens and cats in a home environment. Kittens, especially, are vulnerable to life threatening diseases when in stressful environments like shelters. As a former shelter kitten I want to thank all the foster parents out there. Your foster felines appreciate your efforts and we all hope you can get a little credit from the IRS.

 
 
 

Giving Homeless Cats Jobs: City Rat Catcher!

Over 100 years ago many American cities and rural communities kept cats for rodent control. The cats had some sort of housing and usually a human caretaker who would let them out at night to prowl for their prey. This was a practice that went out of favor when the chemical companies upped their greedy game, saw major profits in poison, and began to push their agenda for toxic chemicals to control rodents, and sadly people fell for this ruse and seemingly easy way out, and stopped using cats. Must we tell you that poison kills more than rodents? It can wipe out an entire family of owls if they eat poisoned rodents (which tells us that owls and other wild life are also good for rodent control)

Fast forward to now. Rescue groups in various US cities have decided it’s high time to give homeless cats a job: Rat and Mouse Abatement! This is a win-win for all especially done in our more modern way with shelters being in charge which ensures that the cats are suited for the job, spayed/neutered, and well cared for. It sure beats euthanasia for the scores of homeless and feral cats! For sure we’ll see rodent populations go down as well as less poison in the environment!

Here’s how two cities are doing it:

In Washington, DC…

http://www.bizjournals.com/washington/news/2017/03/20/rodent-problems-d-c-rescue-group-will-give-you-a.html

http://www.humanerescuealliance.org/blog/posts/humane-rescue-alliance-announces-launch-of-blue-collar-cats-program

In San Francisco…

http://ecosalon.com/working-cats-rodent-control/

Here’s how Barn Buddies does it by providing cats for barns, stables, farm land, and rural businesses:

https://www.heartforanimals.org/barn-buddy-program.php3

 
 
 
 

Targeted efforts to spay/neuter feral cats dramatically reduce euthanasia and cat overpopulation!

An intensive effort to sterilize feral cats reduced the number of felines taken to an animal shelter in Florida and euthanized, a new study reveals.

“We investigated whether we ever could neuter enough cats to slow their intake into animal control,” Dr. Julie Levy, a professor of shelter medicine at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine, said in a university news release.

“Neutering a few cats here and there wasn’t making a big impact,” she explained, “so we wanted to pick a focused area and throw all our resources into it.”

The program was conducted in an area of Alachua County with a large population of feral cats. The researchers trapped and sterilized more than 2,300 feral cats, or about 54 percent of the estimated population of feral cats in the targeted area. After neutering, the cats were returned to their original location or adopted.

The number of cats taken to the local animal shelter fell 70 percent after the neutering program—from 13 to 4 cats per 1,000 residents. Euthanasia of cats decreased 95 percent—from 8 to less than 1 per 1,000 residents, the researchers said.

In the rest of the county, the number of cats brought into shelters fell 13 percent (from 16 to 14 per 1,000 residents) and the number of cats euthanized declined 30 percent (from 10 to 7 per 1,000 residents), according to the study recently published in the Veterinary Journal.

“The figures were incredible as were the adoptions,” Levy said. “Adoption wasn’t part of the original plan, but it happened organically as residents offered to take in kittens and the friendlier adults.”

Researchers tell us that this type of targeted sterilization could slow the birth rates, and therefore save the lives of millions of cats, other animals who are euthanized each year in shelters across the United States.

 
 

National expo for people who do rescue work – story from an attendee!

When our good friend and Cat Faeries ambassador Angela Giannini White told us about an Expo just for people who do animal rescue we knew we wanted a story for our customers and readers. This year the expo was held in Las Vegas and because of that great location the attendance was the highest ever. So much networking took place and attendees got to see the latest and greatest of supplies to help shelters and rescued animals. We know that you’ll want to go next year, or in the future, if you rescue cats or other animals, of if you plan to. This expo is ideal for anyone who’s involved with fostering or who is passionate about TNR. It’s an annual event so plan now for next year! In 2017 it will be held in Ft. Lauderdale.


Animal Care Expo 2016

by Angela Giannini

Board of Directors – Marketing and Communications

Cats Valley Shelter & Sanctuary

This was my first experience with the Humane Society annual Conference which was held this year at the Rio Hotel in Las Vegas. This expo is for animal rescues, shelters, foster programs, animal medication, volunteers, sanctuaries, and TNR groups. There was a record attendance of 2,300 animal lovers and their 25th year of this expo. Next year this event will be held in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. I and three other board members of Cats Valley Shelter and Sanctuary felt it essential that we attend since we are starting a new nonprofit no kill cat shelter and sanctuary in the Bay Area.

Topics were about horses, dogs & cats. Focus this year was on the following, how to Adoption Welcome (increase adoptions), Animal Rescue, Medical Volunteer Programs, Smart TNR, Cat friendly communities, Engaging Volunteers, Humane Society International, Reaching the Underserved, Leadership & Keeping Pets in Homes.

Each day there was ample time to network with fellow animal lovers and we found many cat rescues, foster only programs and shelters willing to share their knowledge and to be future resources for us. Everyone was happy and eager to learn what innovative ideas are working to help get more animals in homes and removing barriers like requiring people to prove they have permission from their landlord to have a pet in their home.

One day during the lunch we heard a tiny kitten meowing and we all went over to view the bottle babies being fed. It was like bee’s to honey moment. Here is a photo of Nathalie Cowan our Board President of Cats Valley with one of the bottle babies.

In the exhibit hall you could obtain information on cleaning supplies, micro chipping, shelter design, pet insurance, fundraising and grants. We actually got a $1,000 grant at the event and won $2,000 towards a fundraiser. Some of the cat related exhibitors were Alley Cat Allies, Million Cat Challenge, and Tree House Humane.

Here is Bonnie Breaux our CFO winning money towards a future fundraiser, Derby Duck Wheel.

One of the sessions spoke about the importance of design of your shelter, making it open, clean, and inviting. Better visibility for your animals and assigning a volunteer to show them where the animals are, which makes it less confusing for your adopters. Creating comfortable areas for people to fill out paperwork and to obtain more information. Celebrating each adoption by announcing it over a loud speaker and following up with the adopter the next day. All these will ideas will help Cats Valley start out with using best practices to facilitate Cats Valley to be a premier place for people’s cat adoption needs and be a resource for the community.

To learn more about the Animal Care Expo and save the date for next year here is the link – https://www.animalsheltering.org/expo

Here is a photo of Board of Directors Bonnie Breaux, Natalie Cowan & Kory Stendell (Angela Giannini was the photographer)