4 Ways to Give Back to Your Local Shelter This Holiday Season

For a start, check out animal shelters’ donation wish lists and discover what you can contribute.

Generally, shelters are in need of pet foster parents and volunteers more than ever during the holiday season. By: freestocks

As you get into the holiday spirit of giving (and shopping) for friends and family, there’s no better time to contribute to your local animal shelter’s “wish list.”

Even when humans take a break from work to celebrate the holidays, animal shelters continue to need support from the community.

From providing a warm home for a few days to simply donating money or supplies, there are ways for everyone to help animals in need this holiday season.

1. Bring a Foster Pet Home for the Holidays

While most shelters operate at capacity and are always in need of pet foster parents, new fosters are particularly important during the holidays.

Many regular foster parents are traveling, so foster networks that are already small are under even more strain. Many shelter volunteers who walk dogs or socialize with cats are too busy with family obligations to make it to the shelter around the holidays, leaving the animals in need of attention.

Top it off with the fact that municipal shelters face an influx of lost animals following New Year’s Eve fireworks, and we find there is truly no better time to foster a dog or cat for a couple of weeks.

A break from the stress of shelter life can help improve animals’ chances at adoption. Socializing outside of a shelter environment and curling up in a warm home can give an animal who has been living in the shelter for months the strength to keep going.

Most shelters provide all food, toys and any other supplies that you may need to foster animals successfully. Invite a foster pet into your home for some TLC, and receive some warm and fuzzy feelings in return.

When giving a pet as a gift, make sure the recipient is ready and willing to care for an animal in the long term. By: muimuicat

2. Gift Responsibly

A pet is a huge responsibility and usually requires a years-long commitment. Because of this, a pet should never be a surprise gift.

But if you know someone who is prepared and excited for the commitment of caring for a pet and you are going to give that person the gift of a new furbaby, consider adopting a rescue instead of buying from a breeder.

Shelters care for a wide range of breeds, ages and personalities, so there’s someone for everyone in a shelter. When you adopt, you are saving 2 lives: the life of the pet you have adopted and the life of the animal that will take his or her place in the shelter.

This doesn’t negate the necessity of having each member of the household meet the new furball before moving forward with an adoption — most shelters require a meet and greet.

3. Check Out Your Shelter’s Wish List

Many shelters have a wish list of items they need on their website throughout the year. In fact, some shelter wish lists are even registered on Amazon.com, and donations ship directly to the shelter.

So while you’re firing off gifts online to friends and family, why not send a gift or two to your local shelter?

Some of the most commonly requested items range from bleach and cat litter to scratching posts. Donating cat or dog food? Check out the shelter website first to find any specifications around the type or brand of food it can accept.

Check out how these shelter animals celebrates the holidays:

If you have enough festive socks and scented lotions to last a lifetime, consider requesting that, instead of gifts, relatives make monetary donations to your local shelter in your name or select items on the shelter’s wish list for friends and family to donate.

4. Pay Attention to Holiday Pet Supply Drives

Some pet stores feature pet food or supply drives during the holidays.

For example, Tomlinson’s, a pet supply store in Austin, Texas, has a food drive every year where the store matches each bag of food that’s donated by customers, doubling the total amount donated. The food is then distributed to area rescues.

Check out your local pet stores or even local vet clinics to see if they offer any sort of charity drive for the holidays.

While it’s important to remember that your local shelter is likely in need of community support all year, the holidays offer a special opportunity to help shelters stock up on supplies for the future and improve the lives of pets while they wait to find their forever homes.

‘Tis the season, so let’s be sure to give back.

Kirsten Peek

View posts by Kirsten Peek
Kirsten Peek lives in Austin and works for a nonprofit organization and as a freelance writer. She previously worked as an adoption counselor at a no-kill animal shelter throughout college as she earned her journalism degree. In her spare time, she fosters for local shelters and spends time with her adopted dog, Flea, and 2 adopted cats, Sarabi and Mufasa.

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