Today I drove out to Mangere for my regular volunteer session on the Cat Ward at Auckland SPCA. It’s early summer in New Zealand and the kitten season is in full swing. Pregnant mothers, mothers with newborn kittens, and litters of orphan kittens are continually being admitted. Of course there are older cats there too. Some have been picked up as strays, some surrendered by owners who can no longer care for them, and others are victims of cruelty or neglect.
All the cats are beautiful, with their different sizes and colours and personalities. A few are highly vocal, constantly clamouring for attention, freedom or food. Some are labelled ‘Timid’ and hide away under their blankets. Many others just sit still, waiting with patient dignity for what will happen next.
Volunteers work alongside the veterinary nurses, helping with practical tasks such as cleaning cages, feeding bowls and litter trays; serving meals; stocking up supplies of rags and newspaper; taking rubbish out; and sometimes spending time with sick puppies in the room next door.
We are not encouraged to have too much physical contact with the cats, because of the risk of spreading infection, nor do we know where they came from or where they will go. It’s probably better not to get too involved with them individually, because not all will be lucky enough to live happy ever after, though a good number will eventually be adopted by one of the many visitors who come to the Animal Village.
There are always vacancies for new volunteers, to do a variety of jobs: direct care of cats, dogs or rabbits, reception, administration, laundry, driving, fostering and fund-raising. Maybe this Christmas season you might consider helping at your own local animal rescue centre, giving them some money, becoming a foster parent or offering a dog or cat a ‘forever home’.