• Dr Caity Venniker

How to help cats when you don't have one

So – you love cats, but you can’t have one right now. Maybe your lifestyle makes adoption difficult or you can't afford it. Maybe you're allergic, or your partner is. Or maybe you just want to do more. Firstly, we love you. Secondly, we've got you covered. Here are some wonderful ways that you can make a difference and help cats and cat shelters, without adopting a cat.


1. Foster a cat

Fostering is taking in an animal for a set period of time, whether it’s a few weeks or a few months. It’s especially helpful for kittens to get them used to life within a home. Why? Because cats should ideally have exposure to many different noises, objects and people before they’re six months old. Things like hats, umbrellas, vacuum cleaners and hair dryers can be very frightening if a cat’s never seen them before.


For older cats, fostering can break the monotony of shelter life, and it’s especially necessary for cats that are frustrated or stressed within a crowded and confined environment. Fostering also helps cats to become more comfortable with people and more willing to form a bond with a new parent when the time comes.



2. Sponsor a cat


If you can’t foster, because you can’t have cats in your house, then sponsoring a cat is the next best thing. Sponsoring means you take financial responsibility for a particular cat in the shelter, and your donations pay for their food, their healthcare, and anything else they need. At some shelters, you’ll sponsor a particular pen and help whichever rescue cat is in that pen at the time until they find new homes. At other centres, you’ll sponsor one particular cat long-term.


3. Volunteer your time


Shelters are often on the lookout for volunteers, so giving time can be just as useful as money. They may need help with cleaning pens, socialising cats, working at reception or promoting the shelter on social media. Usually shelters require an ongoing commitment but not always, so if you have a free Saturday, it's worth asking around.


4. Donate or raise money


Shelters depend on donations for their survival, and every little bit makes a difference. One good option is to create your own fundraiser. You might run a raffle, or run a sponsored marathon, or even ask friends to donate to a shelter for your birthday. On the last one, Facebook provides an easy way to create fundraisers through them, so it's worth checking if they list the charity or shelter that you’d like to support.

5. Donate supplies


Some shelters are also in real need of day-to-day supplies – food, litter, toys, even blankets and scratching posts. Why not check with your local shelters and see what they might need? Some shelters share wishlists on their websites, which commonly include unexpected items such as printing paper for office use. Local branches of Cats Protection, for instance, have their own Amazon wishlists.

6. Get creative


You don’t have to buy supplies – you can make them yourself. Knitting or crocheting blankets and toys is a great and relaxing way to help shelters. If you have basic sewing machine skills, you could also make a cat curtain like these ones. Curtains are an easy and affordable way to give cats privacy, which can provide enormous stress relief within the busy environment of a shelter.


7. Spring clean


Next time you spring clean your house, take the worn towels and mismatched linen from the back of the cupboard and ask if your local shelter needs it. Old newspapers are very useful at shelters, and second-hand furniture can be used to make the enclosures more comfortable and stimulating. If you work in an office, ask if you can start a collection box to encourage your colleagues to donate.


8. Use social media to help cats find forever homes


A survey conducted by the ASPCA in 2018 showed that social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are having a real impact for cat rescue centres. They don’t just increase public awareness and adoption numbers. They also help increase the adoption rate of cats that are commonly harder to place – like older cats and cats with medical conditions. Sharing photographs and stories about cats in shelters may be the best way to help them find their forever homes.


9. Say thanks


One way of helping shelters and charities that tends to be overlooked is simply thanking all the people who are involved in it. It’s emotionally taxing work, and simply saying thanks or dropping off a box of biscuits can go a long way in encouraging them to keep up all the good work that they do.


Not sure where to help?


There are all sorts of cat shelters all over the UK, of varying sizes and specialisms. Have a look to see what’s near you, but as a starting point, here are just a few: Cats Protection - cat charity with branches across the UK Battersea - Cat and dog rescue in London, Berkshire and Kent Goldie’s Cat Rescue - Essex-based, rescuing senior cats and cats with disabilities Blue Cross - Animal rescue and animal hospitals across England and Wales Scottish SPCA - Animal rescue and animal rights campaigning across Scotland Almost Home NI - Animal rescue and animal retirement home in Northern Ireland Want to talk with a whole community of people who care about cats the way you do? Even if you don’t have a cat, we’d love to have you with us on the KatKin Club House. It’s where we share cat pictures 24/7 and support one another to help cats everywhere. Ready to join us?



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