From animal lover to animal advocate
The following post was written by my cat-lovin’ friend Angela. Like me, she is a lifelong animal lover who ony recently decided to become involved in the animal rescue community. Angela recently decided to volunteer with Wayside Waifs, a non-profit shelter in Kansas City.
My mom, my boyfriend, and my best friend all said the same thing when I told them I was going to start volunteering at an animal shelter: “Oh my god, do not get any more cats.”
At first I dismissed their concern. I only have two cats, after all, which means I can reasonably have at least three more (and unreasonably I can have as many as I want, if at some point I’m willing to share my life with Hoarders).
But then I considered my reaction to those horrifying ASCPA commercials. I must admit that I mute that Sarah McLachlan song and avert my eyes from the montages of abused and miserable animals, or within moments I’m sobbing, cursing all of humankind, and vowing to make it my life’s mission to save every kitty. If that is any predictor of how I will respond to real, live homeless cats, it is certainly not a stretch to think that my apartment might become an ad-hoc shelter for unwanted pets.
Luckily, though, I chose to volunteer at Wayside Waifs, which has undergone extensive remodeling over the last decade and become a top-notch, no-kill haven for homeless cats and dogs (and a few rabbits and guinea pigs) in the Kansas City area.
A dedicated team of employees and volunteers – including on-site veterinary and behavioral care providers, cat and dog socializers, and adoptions support staff – cares for the rotating cast of cats and dogs, more than 5,000 of which find forever homes each year. After seeing Wayside’s awesome facility, I did not feel compelled to rush home with a single cat secreted away beneath my jacket.
In order to ensure conditions at the shelter remain awesome and that animals get the care and training they need, Wayside accepts a limited number of cats and dogs, when previously they struggled to make room for every one that arrived at their door. The majority arrive as strays, transfers from other shelters, or owner surrenders, a process that frequently requires an appointment made well in advance. According to Wayside’s volunteer coordinator, establishing a maximum capacity at the shelter has actually allowed the staff to save more animals, as they can get each cat or dog healthy, socialized, and adopted more quickly, thereby making room for another animal in need.
My first volunteer training session also included a tour of the cat and dog kennels, which utilize some natural lighting and are filled with clean and comfy blankets, a variety of toys, and areas for play and socialization. Depending on their health status and personality, many of the cats also live in small colonies, which involve lots of crazy adorable kitty snuggles.
As our group of volunteers-in-training wandered between the rows of enclosures, a few cats gazed lazily at me as I peered in on them and cooed like a grandmother. One big black kitty stretched out on his back while an on-duty volunteer lavished him with belly scratches.
And I thought – yes. Cat socializer — that is the job I want.
Before I can work with the kitties, first I must attend the Cats 101 class, which will hopefully teach me how to read cats’ minds like My Cat from Hell host Jackson Galaxy, who, along with Bob Harper, happens to be one of only two tattooed men my mom trusts.
Cats 101 should happen in mid-March, and then I will get to take regular shifts at the shelter.
Volunteers are also allowed to drop in any time to snuggle the kitties after a bad day, which will probably help me stave off the desire to rent a huge house and attack life crazy cat lady-style – at least for a few more years.
You can read more of Angela’s wry writing over at her blog Thunderlutz.
To see a cat that looks eerily like Angela’s Bubba, check out this Magnet Monday post about my ex-cat Luxor.