We might as well get the “crazy cat lady” jokes out of the way right here at the top of this second post about being a volunteer at AACAC. So here we go: How many cats must a volunteer in the shelter’s adoptable cat gallery have at home?

The answer: None at all. In fact, one of the cat gallery’s most reliable volunteers doesn’t have a single cat at home. Nope, not a one. She gets her cat fix at the shelter and then goes home to several large pet birds.

While cat gallery volunteers don’t need to have cats themselves, they do need to like them, be comfortable handling them and be able to interpret their behavior and anticipate their moods. They may be handling everything from newborns to geriatric cats, and many shelter visitors will presume that they are experts on cat behavior from A to Z. New volunteers should not be concerned, however. Their expertise increases quickly because they are paired when they first start with an experienced volunteer. That volunteer will be able to answer just about any question — or find someone on staff who can.

Volunteers take cats out of their cages and into small introduction rooms to be handled by potential adopters who have been “pre-screened” by the shelter’s front desk staff to make certain they can adopt (a simple process that requires proof that adopters’ existing pets are licensed and vaccinated and the adopters’ landlord, if they have one, allows pets). Volunteers often play the role of Match.com, finding out just what kind of cat someone is looking for and using their knowledge of the shelter’s residents to find the perfect one. It’s awesome to see that magic moment when Cupid releases his arrow and someone decides that yes, this is the cat (or the cat duo!) I am bringing home to love.

The cat room can be a busy place even if no potential adopters are there. Sadly, the shelter gets a steady stream of people looking for their lost cats, and volunteers help them look at all the cats in the adoption room as well as others in the back rooms, plus offer consolation and advice on what cats are apt to do when they get out. Seeing person after person search for their beloved “indoor only” cat who got out will make you a believer in micro-chipping (just $20 at the shelter’s monthly microchip clinic). That’s why Friends of AACAC pays for every cat and dog adopted from the shelter to be microchipped at no cost to the adopter.

If no potential adopters are using a cat introduction room, volunteers can let cats stretch their legs in there while tending to other felines, who may have a spilled food or water dish that needs cleaning up, or a towel that needs changing (footnote: In addition to all the towels used elsewhere, the shelter puts a clean towel in every cat cage at least once a day, so yes, it definitely needs and uses all those old towels people so kindly contribute!). Volunteers give cats and kittens extra food if they need it, including kitten milk replacement and kitten wet food that Friends of AACAC supplies. Volunteers also are often the first to notice and alert the staff if a cat is coming down with a cold or has some other health issue.

Like all shelter volunteers, those in the cat room pitch in and help in countless other ways – perhaps showing visitors the rabbits, guinea pigs and other small critters who live in the room just behind the main cat gallery, folding clean laundry, cleaning an empty cage and moving a new cat into the adoption room or cleaning up a messy cat. When you’re an AACAC volunteer, the time rushes by, the visitors and the cats come and go — but the need never ends.

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