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Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of holiday gift guides Catster will publish. There are more to come!

To me, giving gifts during the holidays has always been at least as much fun as getting them. When I became an adult, I learned that it’s even cooler to be able to support groups that are doing work I believe in. Here are some ways you can help cats (and all animals) during this holiday season.

1. World Vets

This organization is on the ground in the Philippines, providing care for animals left homeless after Typhoon Haiyan. The group also provides veterinary care and spay/neuter services in Peru and many other nations.

2. The Santa Paws Drive

Now in its fifth year, the Santa Paws drive is a virtual toy drive for pets founded by cat blogger and rescue advocate Dorian Wagner. Santa Paws fans nominate shelters to be one of the six organizations — four in the U.S. and two in other parts of the world — to receive care packages from the “Santa Paws elves.” You can donate toys or cash to help make life better for shelter pets.

3. Diabetic Cats in Need

DCIN supports diabetic cats in their original, adoptive, shelter, and rescue homes; rehomes unwanted diabetic cats; and helps to educate caregivers on the appropriate treatment of diabetic cats. This organization has literally been a lifesaver for almost 600 cats since its inception in 2008.

4. Alley Cat Allies

Alley Cat Allies was the first organization to introduce and advocate for humane treatment of feral cats and management of cat colonies through trap-neuter-return. Thanks to ACA’s work, cities from coast to coast have embraced humane treatment of community cats and cat lovers have the tools they need to manage feral cat colonies.

5. The Paw Project

This organization’s mission is to educate the public about the painful and crippling effects of feline declawing, to rehabilitate cats that have been declawed, and ultimately to see the practice of declawing abolished.

6. Sheltering Animals and Families Together

Attorney Allie Phillips started this initiative to help domestic violence agencies allow victims to bring their pets with them when they enter a shelter. SAF-T offers a start-up guide for agencies interested in providing this service, and if you have the passion and energy to devote to this cause, it’s sorely needed.

7. Feline Veterinary Emergency Assistance Program

FVEAP provides emergency financial assistance to cat and kitten guardians who are unable to afford veterinary services if a life-threatening illness or injury strikes. The organization also has a special fund dedicated to supporting people whose cats develop vaccine-associated sarcomas.

8. Winn Feline Foundation

This organization funds cutting-edge research on an array of health issues that affect cats. Contributions can be made to its general fund or to one of two subfunds, the Ricky Fund for research on hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, and the Bria Fund for research on feline infectious peritonitis.

9. Your state’s low-cost spay/neuter assistance program

Almost every state has some type of low-cost spay/neuter fund, which is typically used to provide vouchers to pet owners on fixed incomes or to support TNR programs. You can support these initiatives through something as simple as purchasing a special license plate.

10. Your local shelter

Of all the organizations that could really use your support, your local shelter or rescue group really should be at the top of your list. You don’t have to donate money in order to make a difference: even used towels and blankets can make great donations. Help your children set up a pet food drive at their school. If you’re a crafter, make some cat-related items and donate a portion of your sales to the shelter. Volunteer your time at the shelter or as a foster home.

Do you have any other great ideas for helping cats this holiday season? Please share them in the comments.

About JaneA Kelley: Punk-rock cat mom, science nerd, animal shelter volunteer, professional cat sitter, and all-around geek with a passion for bad puns, intelligent conversation, and role-play adventure games. She gratefully and gracefully accepts her status as chief cat slave for her family of feline bloggers, who have been writing their award-winning cat advice blog, Paws and Effect, since 2003.

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