Thursday, February 22, 2024
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Don’t Need It? Donate It—to Your Local Animal Shelter

kittens in cage
A litter of stray kittens in foster with donated bed, blankets and toys.

And we’re not just talking about cat and dog food and a few blankets, but office equipment and household goods, too.

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 an office chair, a multiple CD player and “veterinarians able to perform rabbit spay/neuter.”

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.

Then there are office basics like copy paper, computers and printers, pens, markers and Post-its, and basic housekeeping items such as brooms, mops, laundry detergent and paper towels.

All the more for spay/neuter programs, health care for injured or abused animals and outreach and education programs.

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.

And then there are 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 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.

photo of kittens in cage with toys and bedding
Kittens with donated towels and toys

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.

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! A roll or two of paper towels can go a long way, as well as a bottle of bleach, even garbage bags.

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.

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. Here are a few sample wish lists, from the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society, from Animal Friends, and from the Animal Rescue League of Western Pennsylvania. Each of them had a choice of “wish list” under “donate” on their website. You can’t get any more clear than that!

Also read “Giving Tuesday: Shop for your Shelters This Holiday Season” .

Join us for the “Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways” Wednesday Blog Hop!

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

10 thoughts on “Don’t Need It? Donate It—to Your Local Animal Shelter

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  • these type of websites break my heart. 4 my birthday next year im going to ask for things to bring to the animal shelters instead of gifts.

    • How kind of you! It’s even hard to think about all those animals who don’t have homes and may lose their lives because of it, but helping shelters in any way helps them to find homes for animals and spread the word about spay and neuter so we have fewer homeless pets.

      I hope you have a wonderful birthday!

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  • Especially any type of fabric, old furniture cushions, even old furniture sometimes. I’ve found human shelters to be very particular because they don’t want to be stuck with something they can’t resell or reuse. A bunch of cats might be happy to curl up on your old couch with the coffee stains on the arm!

  • These are terrific suggestions. I take lots of items to Goodwill, but you are right. Sometimes, they are not suitable for resale but can be used in shelters.

  • Actually, you are the customer who hosts estate sales–I remember you had taken a bunch of sheets or blankets, and I know I took cleaning supplies from the one on Cubbage Street. Thanks for reading! Pass the idea along–all the more money for shelters to spend on care instead of supplies.

  • Once again, Interesting and informative reading..
    It is good to always be reminded about what type of items the shelters can use. Some i would have never thought about. Great Picture!


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