The famous Mr Rogers once said “When I was a young boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” This article is to guide you in the direction of those helpers, so you can become one yourself!
There are so many good people in the world, doing good things, helping so many. These people have often combined to build charities and organizations that take care of the world and its most vulnerable, including its animals. An unfortunate fact of life is that there are countless numbers of cats who are in need of these people and their places. Overbreeding, sickness and injury, unchecked stray populations, abandonment, and poor animal welfare education are causes of this need. From small-scale operations, to large international funds, here are a range of groups you can research to find one that aligns with your values.
To begin with, TNR stands for Trap - Neuter - Return. It is a method used throughout the world to manage the population of unowned cats and dogs in a community. Community cats is the name given to cats that don’t have an owner, and roam freely, and are otherwise known as strays. While a cat on its own may only have a life expectancy of around two years (provided it is one of the approximately 50% who survive kittenhood), a cat in a colony, with a carer, can live up to 10 years. Though their life is riskier, many community cats do lead healthy, happy lives. TNR charities work to ensure this by working with carers, if one can be found, to humanely trap the adult cats to be spayed or neutered, and then returned to where they were trapped. At this time the cats can also be wormed and vaccinated, to improve their general health. Foster and forever homes are often sought for kittens, with their spay/neuter and vaccination costs also covered by the charity. TNR is the best option for these cats, as an alternative to mass euthanization or relocation. TNR helps the cats stay healthy, while preventing kittens from being born in dirty and dangerous conditions that sees almost half of them die in their first year. TNR charities are also very common, so there will be one near you where you can offer your time. Otherwise there are plenty that could use your financial help as the surgeries and care certainly don’t come free!
These are the teams you know about, who have a base in your community. They are where cats and dogs are dropped off when found outside and unwell, or where unwanted litters are left, or pets are surrendered. They take in those who have no home, and try to find them one. There are tens of thousands of shelters and rehoming charities across the United States, all with their own policies surrounding who they manage their populations. A sad fact is that many cats and dogs that go into shelters are euthanized if not adopted within a certain period as there are simply too many animals for too few homes. The good news is that these shelters give these animals the best chance first, by working on behavioral issues that will allow them to become a family pet, and making sure they are healthy through vaccinations and spay.neuter surgeries. Shelters and rehoming charities try to match individual animals to the environments they will be going into, by creating personality profiles for their animals. This helps adoptions to ‘stick’ and prevents the return of animals who don’t fit the dynamic. An extra way to help these hardworking and big-hearted teams is by fostering. This provides a temporary home, often for mothers with kittens, or young individuals. Fostering lets the animals’ true personalities shine in a way that doesn’t always happen in a crowded and noisy shelter. Fosters are often better socialized too, so they can make for successful permanent adoptions.
Sometimes cats need people to help them to be healthy and happy, and sometimes it’s the other way around. This next charity is a specific one, matching up pets to senior citizens. The benefits of having a pet, to an elderly person, are many and varied. They range from exercise, as there are physical things that need to be done in the care of a pet; to socializing, as health care requires vet visits, and having a pet can encourage young relatives to visit more! And on top of that is the companionship. Cats are very interactive and show a lot of affection to their pet parents, and their needs mean that they rely on their owner to take care of them. This constant and calming interaction has been shown to improve heart health in humans, as well as help prevent depression stemming from isolation. A concern some may have is what happens to the pet when it is no longer able to be cared for, and that is taken care of by the charity itself. By homing rescue animals with senior citizens, the lives of many animals are saved. Senior animals are less likely to be adopted in a shelter situation, but the reduced energy demands can be perfect for someone of a similar age in human years!
Some cats don’t find it as easy to find forever homes as others. This can be for many reasons, but a common one is because of blindness or special needs. Luckily for these cats, there are groups who find the life of a cat that has difficulties to be no less valuable than any other. Blind cats need extra care as they require a stable home environment so they can have a clear and consistent map of their area. And cats with other special needs may require other specific conditions in any new home. Another group who are often left behind are those with medical conditions that are contagious to other cats, immuno-compromised, or just sound scary to humans.
Even the big kitties need our help! Big cat numbers are declining globally, and it’s an oft-quoted statistic that there are more tigers in private zoos in the US alone than there are in the wild, worldwide. Charities that work with big cats can vary, from those taking care of cats from private zoos, to those working directly on conservation in the wild. The ones that look after former private zoo cats provide them with a home for the rest of their lives, without breeding them and perpetuating the cycle of animal abuse that is prevalent in these zoos. Some allow visitors, for funding purposes, while others completely retire the animals from being on display. The upkeep of such big creatures does not come cheap, and they rely on volunteers and donations to keep running. The conservation charities are focused abroad, where they undertake research into the habits and habitats of a range of wild species. Public education is another key factor for all of these charities, as people are often unaware of the damage they can do when they inadvertently fund the exploitation of these majestic creatures.
It can be overwhelming to consider the suffering of animals in our world, and hard to know just what it is you can do to help. The charities and rescues listed here have all been vetted for their transparency of practice, and are accredited by overseeing organizations. Remember, just because you can’t save them all, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t start with just one, A little time, a little money here and there can add up. You and your individual efforts will be directly responsible for saving lives and improving the quality of life of innocent animals. If you haven’t found the right charity for you and your values, keep looking: they’re out there! Even reading this far shows that you care and want to make a difference in the life of cats and other animals. For that alone, I thank you.