Shop for Your Shelters This Holiday Season

long-haired tortoiseshell cat
Sadie is seven years old and loves everyone.

While you’re out chasing holiday bargains this month, make sure you find some bargains for your local shelters and rescue groups too! You’d be surprised what they can use in addition to cat and dog food—also blankets, office equipment, household goods and cleaning supplies, for just a few examples.

If you check the “wish lists” of any organization that offers assistance to animals, you might be surprised at what you’d find they can use. On almost every list for the shelters and organizations here in Pittsburgh I find such various necessary items as Sharpie markers, paper towels and van maintenance service, things you’d never think of when considering donations.

two cats with cat tree
A cat tree can make several cats happy at once!

Donate office supplies = more money to spend on animals

Behind the front lines of rescuing, spaying, neutering, healing, housing and adopting animals, there is an administrative body of some sort even if no physical shelter exists. Records must be kept and stored, publicity sent, checks written and staff and/or volunteers taken care of in some way.

Money is always short at shelters and rescue organizations, so it makes sense that donating items that don’t directly serve the animals themselves either saves money, such as office supplies which are necessary, or just makes the atmosphere more welcoming and healing for both animals and staff, such as a multiple CD player or a DVD player which is not necessary but which plays soothing music or an entertaining animal DVD.

bunnies in cages
Bunnies like straw bedding and can also use newspapers.

Office basics everyone needs are copy paper, computers and printers, pens, markers and Post-its, and basic housekeeping items include brooms, mops, laundry detergent and paper towels.

Health care items such as gauze pads, hydrogen peroxide, Q-tips and more are used for animals as well as humans. Think of what you’ve seen your veterinarian or vet tech use.

When you donate items such as these, the organization can use they money they would have spent for spay/neuter programs, health care for injured or abused animals and outreach and education programs.

Large animal rescues

And don’t forget large animal rescues as well—you may not be able to offer large animal feed, for instance, but they need office supplies, cleaning supplies and van maintenance as much as the smaller shelters.

Food and bedding donations

You can always donate the practical things that shelters need in great quantities and use up quickly—mostly food and bedding. All animals need to eat, and shelters will often take opened bags of dry food if your animals don’t like it and you don’t want to send it back to the manufacturer.

If you see pet food on sale, especially canned food, purchase a few cans to donate. Even a half-dozen cans provides meals to older animals, those with special needs or animals who are recovering from serious injury or illness after rescue.

Treats are always appreciated as they can help to train animals who may not have received any discipline, and they can also help a human form a bond with a distrustful animal who was neglected or abused.

In preparation for kitten season, there is always a need for kitten milk replacer formulas.

And don’t forget the wild animals in rehabilitation shelters—they can use things like canned vegetables and baby food, who would think?

animal cages in the hallway
As animals are transferred even more materials are needed.

Bedding is another constant need. Even shelters which don’t keep animals in cages need comfortable places for them to dig and curl up to sleep, and those animals with special needs or in recovery especially need soft bedding. All of it needs to be frequently washed or even discarded after use because of excessive soiling or contagious disease.

Donated bedding from personal care homes

When my mother lived in a smaller personal care home that didn’t have a laundry or linen service I took as many discarded sheets, blankets, bedspreads and pillows as I could to donate to local shelters. According to code, once items have been stained they can’t be used for human bedding, but once washed they can still be used for animals in shelters, and can even be cut into smaller pieces to serve more animals.

And old fur coats provide great comfort to neonatal or young animals missing their mothers, especially wildlife in rescue and rehabilitation centers.

You can imagine cleaning up after all those animals! If nothing else, a roll or two of paper towels can go a long way, as well as a bottle of bleach, even garbage bags.

two dogs on leashes
Two dogs found as strays, cleaned up and looking for a home.

Look around your home and check yard sales

That’s just a partial list, and you don’t really need to think of purchasing them yourself. Often you’ll find you have extras of things you don’t need, or, like the bedding from the personal care home, you’ll find things that others are discarding. You can also clean up at a yard sale or especially an estate sale where the house has to be completely cleaned out, and what else to you do with partially used cleaning products? One of my design customers hosts estate sales, and immediately packs up anything along these lines to be donated to a shelter. If you don’t take it there you can always suggest it to someone else who has access to it.

Shelter Wish List

So be creative when you are cleaning out old things, and when you hear of others cleaning as well. Make sure you check the wish lists first to make sure they can use it—and note that not all of them take food that’s been opened.

Imagine if everyone bought and donated a case of canned food and a big package of paper towels—what an impact that would have in saving the shelters money and in helping the economy go round! This holiday season, put at least one shelter or rescue group on your gift list.

Local organizations, causes and rescues

Many individuals and small organizations are providing low-cost spay/neuter and veterinary care, pulling animals off the streets, setting up TNR clinics and many more activities that help homeless animals. A donation of goods, services or cash to one of these can make a huge difference. Read about my reward program, Holiday Cheer for Homeless Cats and Their Caretakers, for those who donate cash or gift certificates to the Homeless Cat Management Team and Frankie’s Friends.


All photos courtesy the kittens’ foster homes.

And read about other kittens and adult cats who are looking for homes.


Can’t adopt? Foster! Can’t foster? Donate or volunteer.

There are so many ways you can help cats who need homes and care. You may not have room to adopt another cat, but can foster a cat or kitten for a few weeks. If not that, you can volunteer at a shelter or with a rescue, or donate. You do this because you love your cat, and by doing so you help all cats. No matter which of these actions you take, you help to save a life, and make life better for all cats.

  • Adopt one of the cats I’ve posted here, or from any shelter or rescue near you, or from Petfinder, to open up a space for another cat to be rescued and fostered.
  • Offer to foster cats or kittens for a shelter or rescue near you.
  • Volunteer at a shelter or rescue.
  • Find a group of volunteers who work with homeless cats and help them with their efforts.
  • Donate to a shelter or rescue near you.

If you can foster kittens or adults cats to help prepare them for a forever home, please run to your nearest shelter and find a cat who needs you! Anyone can help with this effort at any level, even if all you do is donate to a shelter or rescue so they can help to pay for the food or medications needed for their foster, or the spay/neuter/veterinary care during a clinic.

Need to know more? Read Fostering for Your Shelter and Fostering Saves Lives

. . . . . . .

And a big thanks to the people who have gone out of their way to rescue an unneutered polydactyl tom who had an huge abscess in his cheek, a really old orange cat who was filthy with his own waste and dirt and food, who transported a friendly adult female on death row whose only transgression was a URI, and who rescued all the momcats and kittens and bottle fed all the orphaned kittens and who feed all the cats outdoors who they can’t take in. The stories fly by every single day and I can’t keep up with them, but I’m so glad people take the time for this.


Browse some rescued cats and kittens!

cats for adoption


All images used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in using one in a print or internet publication. If you are interested in purchasing a print of this image or a product including this image, check my Etsy shop or Fine Art America profile to see if I have it available already. If you don’t find it there, visit Ordering Custom Artwork for more information on a custom greeting card, print or other item.


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Bernadette

From health and welfare to rescue and adoption stories, advocacy and art, The Creative Cat offers both visual and verbal education and entertainment about cats for people who love cats. From catchy and creative headlines to factual articles and fictional stories, The Creative Cat provides constant entertainment and important information to people who love cats, pets and animals of all species.

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