Last week, there were about 150 cats available for adoption in our shelter. About 50 are lucky enough to be in one of the multi-cat habitat rooms where they have a little space to walk around, sit on a chair, or climb a cat tree. The remaining cats are housed in cages, either alone or with some littermates. My main focus in volunteering is to socialize the adoptable cats who are housed in the cages.
Last weekend I spent 12 hours at the shelter - 6 hours both Saturday and Sunday. I spent 3 hours cleaning & helping with laundry, and 9 hours socializing with the cats. When socializing, I try to spend 10-15 mintues on each cage - and that cage may have just 1 adult cat or may have 4 kittens. If a cat seems stressed by the interaction, I may spend only 5 minutes petting or just talking to it while I clean up its cage. But a cage of rambunctious kittens may need 20 minutes of play time to burn off some kitten energy. Sometimes there's a cat I take a liking to and spend a little extra time with. But I try to be "fair" and give all the cats the same amount of attention.
Along with socializing each cat/cage I make sure they have a clean cage, fresh water, food, and a clean litter tray. This can take a few minutes for each cage, especially a cage of kittens who spilled their food and tipped their water bowl. So, all-in-all, it may take 20 minutes to take care of the cats in each cage.
One of the things I do to try to prevent the cats from getting frustrated about not getting attention is I socialize in only 1 room at a time. Our shelter is set up with 10 cages per room. Realistically, it takes at least 2-1/2 hours to get to all the cages in that room because of the time spent cleaning, helping a shelter guest, or getting side-tracked with something. Then I move on to the next room. In each room, the cats seem to realize that they will each get a turn out of their cage. I find it heartbreaking to go into a room, take some of the cats out, then leave others disappointed that they didn't get a turn. Their life is already so difficult that I don't think it's right to add any type of disappointment to their life. There are days when you get a little off schedule due to spending extra time cleaning or potential adopters needing the room to visit with a cat. Then the last few cats in a room may get short-changed on their time. If this happens on Saturday, I try to make up their time on Sunday. If it happens on Sunday, I don't sleep well.
I wish I could spend at least 20 minutes with each cat, but there are simply too many cats and not enought time. But this weekend it was gratifying to know that working together, the cat volunteers were able to give almost every adoptable cat some attention! That's an amazing feat considering the limited number of volunteers and the abundance of cats.