Sanctuary Cat Volunteer Program

As many of you know, our Sanctuary volunteers are so important to the socialization and wellbeing of our animals. Welcoming an array of animals with many different backgrounds, challenges, and needs, our volunteers are able to provide the time, patience, and love that these animals need to thrive. With their help, our furry friends are able to heal, both mentally and physically, and build bonds with people.

We wanted to give you an inside scoop of what it’s like to volunteer with our cats at the Sanctuary and what better way to do that than hearing it from the volunteers themselves! We reached out to a longtime volunteer, Sheila, on her experiences and thoughts of our Sanctuary cat volunteer program. Sheila started volunteering with OC in January 2013- almost 10 years ago! She taught at an elementary school for 35 years and was interested in learning more about this new animal Sanctuary being built in Ashford. She has helped numerous children all throughout elementary school and wanted to continue that work, but with animals!

When she first started volunteering with the cats, she was surprised by how welcoming the staff was, answering all of her questions and appreciated how thorough the introductions to the animals were. Sheila shared that she has had cats for 37 years, but was still so surprised learning about how different each cat was, their story, and even their unique needs. She loved how the cat cottages were built, like the cat shelves and the ”catios”, to provide the best enrichment and care for these special animals.

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Sheila continued to say that her favorite thing about volunteering with our cats is that she’s constantly learning about cat behavior and how innovative the team is to help best meet the needs of the cats. When the Sanctuary built more play yards, she was so excited to learn that one of the play yards would be adaptable for cats so that volunteers and cat can enjoy some outdoor time together in a safe, secure environment. She loves how OC always keeps expanding their ideas of enrichment and care to make sure these animals are living their best lives. Sheila said that no matter how long you might be a cat owner and know everything about cats, she has learned so much from volunteering at OC as they continue providing education and resources to their volunteers.

Sheila shared that she works with more challenging cats that need more structured play time and loves how different OC’s approach is to these more challenging cases. She also appreciates how she can bring ideas to staff and love how collaborative the program is when it comes down to providing the best care for these rescue animals. Sheila adds, “I feel very proud and privileged to be a small part of the continued life changing opportunities OC provides to each and every animal whose life they touch.  I’ve made friends with staff and other volunteers all who share in OC’s dedication and compassion for animals. How great is that to have in one’s life! I’ve seen and continue to see OC’s amazing growth in so many facets in the short 10 years I’ve been a volunteer.  I can’t wait to see what is going to happen next!”

We also asked Sanctuary cat volunteer Allison on her experience with the program and she also shared how much she loves how beautiful and home-like the cottages are. The cat lives in their own bedrooms where they have space to play, climb, sleep comfortably, and can even go outside safely to bird watch on the catios! Allison has seen so many cats who are so shy and fearful, blossom into the most social butterflies and attributes their progress to this home-like environment.

Allison’s favorite part of volunteering is the unconditional love and respect she feels between herself and the cats. She understands that she can’t have a strong relationship with every cat, but she feels a basic understanding of love and respect, like the cats somehow know she’s there to love and help them. She adds that when she does form a bond with a cat that it’s just a super added bonus and she’s forever grateful for that opportunity! Allison did share she was initially worried about volunteering with a full-time schedule and other commitments, but what’s great about the program is that you choose your own time! If you like weekdays, weekends, or you’re even a night owl, there’s a shift for you!

Allison then added that volunteering with the Sanctuary cats has had a tremendous positive impact on her life. Though she’s a cat mom to a one little lady, when people ask her about her pets, she says she has anywhere between 15-20- making sure to include her feline friends at the Sanctuary! She continues to say, “The experience of volunteering is very personal and monumental.  There’s nothing like it and no words will ever be able to describe how much positive this has added to my life.  The cats have given more to me in these years then I will ever be able to provide in my lifetime.”

We are so touched and incredibly grateful for people like Sheila and Allison to be a part of our organization and mission towards helping animals in need. Their compassion and time can be life-changing for many of these animals that might have never experienced that before arriving to our Sanctuary. We can’t thank our volunteers enough for their amazing work and are always looking for more like-minded, passionate animal lovers to join our volunteer programs! To learn more about volunteering, like our Sanctuary cat volunteer program, please visit our website! For any questions, feel free to contact our Helpline at 860-242-9999 or email [email protected]!