Monday, 10 June 2013

Kitty Cuddling at the SPCA

As you all know, I decided a couple of weeks back to stop feeling sad about the world and actually do something to try and make a difference. So, after going to an orientation workshop, filling out all the necessary paperwork, and getting a not-too-painful tetanus shot, I awoke bright and early on Sunday morning for my first day of volunteering at the Cape of Good Hope SPCA. As I drove to Grassy Park, I felt a mixture of nerves and apprehension: what if I just wasn't strong enough to handle volunteering? The last time I had spent any length of time in an SPCA was when my mom and I had to have our very old dog put down and, as I walked through the doors and was hit with that familiar smell of animals mixed with disinfectant, I could feel my resolve crumbling.

I'm really glad that I didn't turn around and leave right then and there and, after some quick introductions, I was swiftly led to the cattery (I had requested to start my volunteering there). I don't know about you, but when I think about stray animals in any sort of shelter I get flashes of the evil dog-catchers in Lady and the Tramp and picture sad animal faces staring out at me from dark and damp concrete cells. But, I am very pleased to report, that the sight that met my eyes was nothing at all like my Disney-inspired imaginings. The cattery is divided up into different rooms (most of the cats have a friend that lives with them) that have both an indoor and outdoor section, separated by a glass window. At night, the cats are put inside where they have a desk, their beds, food, water, kitty-litter trays, and a panel heater that is left on all night in winter. When the staff/volunteers arrive in the morning, they open the window so that the cats can get into the outdoor area, where they have all of their toys, scratching posts, more blankets, and climbing apparatus. Disney failed to include those luxuries in his animated portrayals!

I met Raymond, who cleans out the rooms every day, and I helped empty kitty-litter trays, fill up clean ones, and let the cats outside whilst bonding over our mutual home-province the Eastern Cape (with Raymond, not the cats.) And then came the best part: I got to spend the rest of the morning loving some kitties! Note to all: do not wear clothes that you mind getting cat hair/claw marks/disinfectant spray all over. In order to avoid passing on any cat diseases, it is important that you spray yourself down with disinfectant after leaving every enclosure and, if you're like me and let the cats crawl all over you, you'll be covered in hair within the first five minutes! If you ever feel like life is moving at too fast a pace and you need a quiet moment to sit and gather your thoughts, then this is definitely for you. There is nothing quite so calming as stroking a purring tabby, having a full-grown Tom snuggle on your lap, or playing with a 3 month old kitten.

After my four hours of volunteering were up, I left the COGH SPCA with a completely different mindset than the one that I had had on the way in. Yes, it's heartbreaking to see any animal in a shelter no matter what the reason, but yesterday morning gave me a much-needed glimmer of hope. I didn't see scared, malnourished, or abused cats, but friendly, beautiful, and happy ones with so much love to give. So if you're like me and can't have a pet of your own (although that didn't stop me imagining taking them all home with me!) think about volunteering. You really can make a difference in an animal's life as well as in your own. 

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