page header image

Give gifts to shelter pets

Original Publication Date: December 22, 2014
By C. Sue Furman, Ph.D.

Hopefully, you have tucked the last neatly wrapped gift under your tree. Now you need only wait to see excited happy faces when the wrappings are torn off to reveal the surprises inside. However, there are a few more last minute presents you may wish to consider.

Shelters and the pets they care for are always in need of help that can come in many forms. Please, give some serious thought to providing presents for pets this holiday season. First, locate the shelters in your area. You can determine the basic needs of each by checking their website or making a phone call.

Then plan a shopping trip to pick up some presents for pets. Items on the wish lists of most shelters are dog and cat beds, dog and cat toys, and pet treats. Blankets are great gifts especially at this time of year. Some shelters welcome donations of pet food while others do not, because they stick to a prescription diet for their shelter animals. Check with the shelter about food requirements. Shelters require a number of items the pets never see directly. Staff and volunteers need paper towels, laundry soap, dish soap, bleach, large and small trash bags, air fresheners, brooms, and cat litter. Shelters find some brands of cleaning products work better than others for the tasks they have at hand. Ask if a specific brand is preferred.

Not all donated items need to be brand new. Some shelters are happy to have sheets, towels, blankets, and gently used pet beds, collars, and leashes.

A little early spring cleaning may be in order if your shelter has these requests. You can offer something that doesn't cost money but is essential to shelters. They need your time. Volunteers help a shelter operate at top efficiency. Shelter pets enjoy a walk with a buddy. Pets also crave friends to cuddle and share quality time. Some have never learned that people can offer soothing touch and kind words. Knowing this makes them much more adoptable.

You will probably be welcomed with open arms by shelter staff if you offer to clean cat pans and scoop poop, but that is not required of volunteers. Shelters also need volunteers to transport pets to foster homes or between rescue facilities. Volunteers who can pick up a hammer or a paint brush are always appreciated. Shelter facilities almost always need someone willing to lend a hand to do repairs or build furniture for the animals.

If you are short on time, make a donation or give a gift card for a store that can fill shelter needs. Spend a few dollars or a little time, and support your local animal shelter. Give presents to pets to spread holiday cheer and please continue the good will throughout the new year.

Sue Furman, Ph.D, has published two books and a DVD on canine massage and teaches classes in pet massage, acupressure, first aid and CPR. See her schedule and submit questions at