Today I thought I would write about the RSPCA volunteering I started doing back in May to improve my understanding of kennels, cattery, small animal care and how rescue centres work. Whilst this “work experience” ticks lots of boxes, it’s also pretty fun and rewarding – and hard work of course but then we already knew I’m a sucker for punishment.
I started out doing 9-5 every Sunday but last month I asked if I could reduce this to once a fortnight. It’s a shame but I haven’t had any real time off work since Christmas last year and I felt like continually working six days a week plus evening experience wasn’t a good idea for my health. As my visits are quite spaced out it’s taking me a while to learn the ropes but now I sometimes have responsibility for a block of kennels which is the hard work I mentioned nice.
Depending on staffing I get assigned to kennels or cattery first thing. Although the animals, feeds, toys and layout are different the routine is pretty similar. Before the public can come visiting at 11AM we feed and water, clean all the kennels or cat pods, disinfect anything contaminated with urine or faeces, remove feeding equipment, wash floors and make the place tidy.
I don’t know a lot about other places but the centre seems to have a pretty good set up, there are five blocks of kennels and 30 cat “pods” all with inside and outside access, isolation facilities, three pens for dogs to play in, kitchens, a bathing/grooming room, laundry, a meeting room which can also be used to socialise cats, several dog walking routes, reception, offices and lots of storage for donations, cages, food, cat litter and other supplies.
Once things are set up for the day volunteers can start walking dogs whose names are on the walkers’ boards. Each dog is graded red, amber or green for behaviour and we can only walk grades we’re trained for. The board also has notes on the dogs – for example, whether they can have treats, should wear a harness, need grooming after their walk or shouldn’t go in public spaces due to being from a prosecution case. In the cattery we spend time socialising kittens or take adult cats into the meeting space to stretch their legs and be made a fuss of.
Throughout the day there are also a variety of other tasks like sorting donations, cleaning and tidying, animal health checks, assisting with vaccinations or microchipping, laundry, feeding animals on multiple daily feeds, grooming, bathing, assisting in giving medication, sweeping, taking out rubbish, washing up… No it’s “not all puppies and kittens” as people like to say but it’s still 100% more puppies and kittens than my average day! We also help with enrichment materials for the animals such as frozen food, toys or time outside their cages. Being in kennels with a changing rota of carers, no matter how dedicated, is stressful for the animals but varied enrichment can help reduce this and prevent boredom issues.
Once the public go home at 4 there is another round of feeding, watering and cleaning before the centre is locked up and the staff go home. Several of the team live on site so there’s sometimes scope to give the animals some extra time with outdoor access. You’d hope it would also deter people from abandoning pets but sadly there has been a spate of dumped cats recently. This means that pets on the waiting list who need to come to the centre and whose owners have followed the proper process have to wait even longer and it also puts the team in a really awkward position. However, to avoid ending on a sad note, here is a short clip of Mia who I last saw two weeks ago on the day she was ditched in a taped-up box. Then she just sat and dribbled from the stress – look how friendly she is now!
I’m going to keep at this volunteering for as long as I can until another type of animal experience takes over my weekends. It’s a great centre and open 11AM-4PM every day except Tuesday, so you should definitely go visit and put some coins in the donations jar! You can also donate pet food, cat litter, beds, blankets, towels, toys or treats – it will all go to a very good use.
Thanks for reading and “see” you again next week!