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  • Writer's pictureZia Mowbray

A Day in the Life of a Volunteer at Pets for Life Animal Shelter Part One: The Morning Shift

Updated: Oct 29, 2023

Earlier in the year, we discussed why you should become a shelter volunteer and what some of the attributes you need to have are. To recap, they included a love of animals, kindness, patience and responsibility.


This month, we are going to expand on this topic and give you a comprehensive day-in-the-life of a volunteer here at our shelter. Our shelter has a morning and afternoon shift, both run completely by volunteers, so this post will just cover the former. Let us know in the comments below if you want to read about the afternoon shift and another important thing that happens during the day at our shelter!


Every shelter has different methods and schedules for their animals, and as with any organisation dealing with living things, you have to be flexible. Our schedule as volunteers adapts ever so slightly depending on what cats are in the shelter, and what their individual needs are. For example, we may have to give them medication or a different type of food. This ensures they are the most comfortable they can be at our shelter, which helps them be their authentic happy selves and hopefully get adopted faster, as they are more willing to foster connections with others.


Today, we will be covering the basic schedule of the morning shift, which usually starts at 8:30am. The moment you walk through the shelter door, you are greeted by a symphony of hungry and excited cats who all do their best to get your attention. We have a book to keep logs of every shift, which allows all volunteers to be updated on if there is anything they need to be looking out for on their shift. Usually everything is fine, but it’s always better to be safe, so we check that book as soon as we start a shift. We also sign in and out of the log book (for insurance purposes).


Once updated, it’s time to feed the cats. In the morning we feed them wet food, unless they have a special dietary need which we prepare for them instead. As almost every animal owner knows, when handing out food animals get very impatient. In some cases our cats will climb up their enclosures to try and get closer, or try to reach into other’s enclosures to steal food! Once everyone is fed and content in their own spaces, however, we will clean up any unforeseen messes that may have happened throughout the night (vomit, diarrhoea etc.) before prepping to clean.


Prepping to clean involves a few simple steps. We pack away the dishes left to dry from the last shift. We put hot water and dish soap in a big container to place the dirty dishes in as we go between cat enclosures and fill the mop bucket. Then, we get into cleaning each enclosure that's housing a cat. This involves wiping down the surfaces and toys with bleach and water, changing the kitty litter and scrubbing out the litter tray and finally sweeping and mopping the enclosure’s floor. Whilst cleaning their spaces, we either put the cats in different cages or let them free range around the shelter to stretch their legs. This depends on the cats we have in the shelter at any given time, as some may not be comfortable interacting with the other cats so it is best to keep them separated.


After an enclosure is clean, we give its guest some attention, petting, brushing and/or playing with the cats to ensure their needs are met and help with their wellbeing whilst at the shelter. Then we put them back into their newly cleaned enclosure and move onto the next one!


When all of the in-use cat enclosures are done, the rest of the shelter space is swept and mopped and the dishes are cleaned. Finally, we write a log in the book to update the other volunteers, check that every cat has fresh water and take out the bin. After that, the morning shift is complete! Depending on how many cats we have in the shelter, and if another volunteer is on the shift with you, it’ll take around 1-2 hours, which isn’t much time compared to how much of a difference you’re making in these animals’ lives (and yours)!


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