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  • Writer's pictureZia Mowbray

What Do Volunteers Do?

A Day in the Life of a Volunteer at Pets for Life Animal Shelter Part 2: Adoptions and the Afternoon Shift.

In September we outlined the jobs done in the morning shift as a volunteer here at Pets for Life in this blog post, which included feeding, cleaning, medicating and more. For the afternoon shift, it’s not too different. In fact, there is a little less cleaning (unless a cat has made some sort of extra big mess!) as the shelter has already been swept and mopped from top to bottom. The real difference comes from what happens before the afternoon shift, around midday, where most of the visits happen. But before we get into that, let's review the tasks in the afternoon shift.

A black cat looking lovingly up at an animal shelter volunteer.
Panther spending time with a volunteer at Pets for Life Animal Shelter

The afternoon shift begins around 3:30/4 each day, and the general set of tasks go as follows:

  • Log your presence in the log book and read over any notes from the morning.

Usually the notes just say the cats are fine, but every now and then you have to keep an eye out to see if any problems a cat may have persisted throughout the day. Also, sometimes a cat might have gone off for adoption during the day, and your shift starts before the shelter team is told of the good news. Having a record of the cats that come in and out of the shelter is important so you don’t think you’ve lost a cat!

  • Tidy cat enclosures.

This starts with collecting and washing any leftover dishes from the morning shift. Usually, these dishes are soaked in hot soapy water before being washed at the end of the shift, much like in the morning. Then, kitty litters are cleaned out to keep the shelter space from smelling too bad and ensuring the space is as hygienic as possible. During this time if there were any additional messes like vomit or even just tipped over litters, the space is cleaned up and enclosures may be swept and mopped again.

  • Feed the cats!

In the afternoon cats are generally fed dry food to keep a good healthy balance in their diets. Cats that have dietary requirements, however, will just stick with whatever they need, so sometimes the dry dinner meal will be altered in the best interest of the individual cat.

  • Socialise the cats.

This can include anything from playing games one-on-one with cats or letting them interact with each other and roam around the shelter to stretch their legs. This is also dependent on the individual cat, as each cat has different needs and boundaries. For those who are still timid towards humans, this is a crucial time, helping them trust and bond with volunteers. This step can be a slow process, but it’s integral to the wellbeing of the animals and something we prioritise as a no-kill shelter.

  • Clean and put away dishes.

When all of the cats are done with their dinner, the final dishes are collected and all are washed and put away.

  • Take out bins.

The final step is taking out the bin, which must be done at the end of every shift for similar reasons as the kitty litter: to keep the shelter hygienic and to reduce smell as much as possible. We want the shelter to be a comfortable place for both the cats and people who visit, and that begins with the environment.

These tasks can take around an hour, sometimes even two depending on the number of cats we have and their needs. As mentioned in Part 1 of this series, it is an important role and benefits both you and the cats, so volunteering, at any time of the day, is highly recommended. Check out other shelter routines here or here to see what might be different between shelters!

So, as for the middle of the day, that’s usually the time visitors are scheduled to view cats for adoptions as it doesn’t get in the way of volunteer work. However, sometimes adoptions happen during a shift, which can be such a special thing to witness as volunteers. I remember witnessing my first adoption on a shift, and you could tangibly feel the excitement in the air as the family got to take home their new cat. That pure job is truly contagious, and it’s always nice to see the cats you’ve been bonding with for months get to bond with their forever family, as sad as it can be to have to say goodbye as a volunteer sometimes.

One other thing that sometimes happens during the day are visits from retirement homes. This is a great program for both the cats and visitors, enabling both a little extra love and attention than they may be used to. We all need companions, but sometimes adoption is too much, so this is a perfect medium that we are so happy to be able to help facilitate. Who doesn’t love an extra snuggle in their day?


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