It’s easy to find ways to help people in need during the holiday season, from donating to a nonprofit to buying gifts for a family to dropping your spare change in a kettle. It’s harder to hear the voices of animals in need, though. If you’d like to help less fortunate kitties this holiday season, here are some great ways to do that.
1. Support your local shelter
By sending your donation directly to a shelter in your area rather than to a national organization, you’re guaranteeing that all your dollars will go to that shelter. Most rescue groups do not receive support from national animal welfare organizations, and they rely on donations from people in the area they serve. If you have more time than money, consider volunteering on a regular basis. There are lots of jobs for volunteers, ranging from cleaning cages to doing PR or fundraising or serving on the board of directors.
2. Give to the Santa Paws Drive
The Santa Paws Drive is dedicated to helping shelter animals have a happy holiday season by sending huge packages of gifts to shelters around the world. Founded by blogger and Catster writer Dorian Wagner, it’s the first ever "virtual toy drive" for pets. Each year, the “Santa Paws elves” ask animal lovers to suggest shelters that should receive gift boxes, and then to select six of them. This year, the gifts will be going to four shelters in the U.S., one in Cyprus, and one in Hungary.
3. Foster a lonely cat for the holidays
Can you open your home to a cat from a shelter or rescue group this holiday season? Petfinder is sponsoring its third annual Foster a Lonely Pet for the Holidays event. For more information and a list of participating shelters and rescue groups, visit the site.
4. Buy gifts and support a rescue
This is a win-win: You can do your holiday shopping and support a rescue group. There are lots of options; here are a few that I know of:
- If you buy a copy of the children’s book Moo Kitty Finds a Home in November 2012, $1 from each sale will be donated to Kitten Associates, a Connecticut-based cat rescue.
- Jackson Galaxy’s Shelter of the Month program brings together retailers and shelters for a fundraiser that benefits both entities. This month, you can buy a T-shirt from Arm the Animals, and $5 from each sale will be donated to The Cattery Cat Shelter. I’m sure the December promo will be equally awesome.
- The Moderncat Studio Etsy shop, where you can buy some truly wonderful toys and goodies for your favorite feline, donates 5 percent of its proceeds to a different animal rescue group each month. My cats are big fans of Moderncat toys, and they love their Beautiful Basics Bucket Luxury Cat Bed.
- All the proceeds from the greeting cards (including holiday cards) artist Lisa Brideau sells through her Etsy shop benefit two Vancouver-area shelters.
Just look around the Internet or on Facebook and you’re bound to find a way to buy that perfect gift and support a shelter at the same time.
5. Donate to the Feline Veterinary Emergency Assistance Program
FVEAP is a nonprofit organization that provides emergency financial assistance to people who can’t afford to care for their cats when a life-threatening illness or injury strikes. Lots of good people go through hard times, and these are the people for whom FVEAP was created: seniors, people with disabilities, people who have lost their jobs, people who rescue injured or sick cats, or anyone else who’s trying to do the right thing for cat in urgent need. FVEAP also offers Kobi’s Fund, a dedicated fund for treatment of vaccine-associated sarcomas.
6. Make a contribution to a pet food pantry
Many cities have food pantries dedicated specifically to pets. Some food pantries that serve people are also recognizing that their clients have animal companions who are also facing hunger, and they may have shelves specifically for pet food and pet products. If your local food pantry doesn’t have a pet food shelf, consider working with them to collect donations of pet products for their clients.
7. Support a family violence shelter that accepts pets
Based on the realization that many victims of domestic violence will stay in their abusive homes because they fear for their pets’ lives, more and more domestic violence shelters are allowing pets in their facilities, and the Sheltering Animals & Families Together (SAF-T) program is a huge part of that. Check out SAF-T’s website for information about the program and to find participating family violence shelters in your state. If you’re really energized about the issue, consider working with a shelter in your area to start a SAF-T program.
At this time of year, we do think a lot about helping animals — and people — in need, but I think we should have a charitable attitude all year round. The need doesn’t end once the tree comes down or the last candle on the menorah is extinguished, so please don’t stop supporting your favorite cause once the season is over.
Do you have other ideas for supporting cats in need? Please share them in the comments!