Shop for Your Shelters This Holiday Season
While you’re out chasing holiday bargains this month, make sure you find some bargains for your local shelters and rescue groups too! It’s kind of like getting socks and underwear for your brother when you’d rather get him a nice sweater—the socks and underwear aren’t fancy or even something you want to talk about, but they are something he needs and uses all the time. You’d be surprised what they can use in addition to cat and dog food—also office equipment, household goods and cleaning supplies, for just a few examples. And for that matter, other animals besides cats and dogs live in shelters and rescues too, so food and goods for exotic animals is often on the list.
Don’t just guess—check those wish lists!
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 I know I find such various necessary items as Sharpie markers, pee pads and van maintenance service, things you’d never think of when considering donations. Just one thing to remember: don’t guess about what they need and donate something because you have it on hand. If they don’t need it, it will only get in the way; no one on the staff has the time to put it up for sale on craigslist to earn some money by selling it. Always check the wish list first.
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.
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 the money they would have spent for them for spay/neuter programs, health care for injured or abused animals and outreach and education programs instead.
Large animal rescues and farm animal sanctuaries
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, and unique items too, like fence posts or a gate. Because more people donate to shelters for small animals and especially cats and dogs, a donation of goods and services to large animals could make a huge difference.
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?
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.
TNR and rescue
TNR groups use sheets and blankets to cover traps when trapping, and to cover crates when housing feral cats for any length of time. Most use pee pads in traps after surgery while the cat recovers, and use bleach wipes to help keep the area antiseptic between cats during clinics. That calls for more donated bedding as well as purchasing more goods.
Nothing is a substitute for kitten milk replacement formula for abandoned neonatal kittens who need to be bottle fed—they simply can’t eat anything else. Even during winter months rescuers trapping cats keep a supply on hand for emergencies. And kittens eat a lot, and no matter what brand it’s expensive, and adds up as the days go by.
Look around your home and check yard sales
You may find things on their wish lists in your home, or purchase them for less at yard sales or thrift shops. 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 do 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 or other care item on their list—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.
Can’t get them goods or services? Gift cards will do!
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. Their needs often change from day to day and prepaid gift cards to pet supply stores and discount stores can make a huge difference.
Helping my favorite rescues
Donate Amazon gift cards to [email protected] Because their cats are fostered in homes all around the Pittsburgh area, gift cards enable them to send supplies directly to fosters!
Cash always works
Pittsburgh CAT is doing a fundraiser right now to help with outstanding vet bills for dozens of rescued cats and kittens all with medical needs. For every $5 you donate you will be entered to win a $50 Amazon Gift Card. (Donate $15 and you’ll be entered 3 times). Donate via PayPal [email protected] or Venmo Pittsburghcat.
Other ways you can help
Amazon Wish Lists
The Amazon Wish List for our group’s foster kittens.
Many rescuers pay out of pocket for veterinary care and food but the costs of raising even the average litter of four healthy kittens is more than many people have, and many rescues have greater needs. Pittsburgh CAT has a number of wish lists that include foods for feeding neo-natal kittens like KMR, and other lists that include the best kitten foods, adult cat foods, food and materials for feral cats, and preferred toys and litter.
Pittsburgh CAT Food Wish List: https://www.amazon.com/hz/wishlist/ls/2JC8N4EEV3EEV
Pittsburgh CAT Medical Wish List: https://www.amazon.com/hz/wishlist/ls/1EBBDXBLB39T3
2019 HCMT/Pittsburgh CAT Wish List: https://www.amazon.com/hz/wishlist/ls/2KL90A41VNMZC/
Winter food for community cats: https://www.amazon.com/hz/wishlist/ls/2H7VRDMOYHVIR
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
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Each book includes also 10 sheets of my “22 Cats” decorative notepaper with a collage of all the portraits in black and white so you can make your own notes or write special notes to friends.
The portraits in this book, collected as a series, won both a Certificate of Excellence and a Muse Medallion in the 2011 Cat Writers’ Association Annual Communication Contest, as well as the 22 Cats Notepaper mentioned below.
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One thought on “Shop for Your Shelters This Holiday Season”
These are terrific ideas.
A co-worker mentioned that upon cleaning out her linen closet, she has a ton of sheets and old towels. I immediately suggested the local animal rescue, and if she’d like, I’ll transport the goods for her.