by Wendy Toth
Your pets is already into all the same things as you - naps, playtime, food, more naps - so it’s a given that she wants to help the causes close to your heart.
Whether the recipient of this goodwill is another animal or a human being in need of a hug, your cat or dog will feed off the positive vibes. Plus, when animals are around, we humans end up with lower stress levels and blood pressure, and a heightened sense of togetherness.
Ready to team up with your pet on a do-good crusade? Try out one of these ways to give back, together.
Foster a Pet in Need
Provide a temporary home for a kitten that’s too young to be adopted, a dog recovering from knee surgery, or any pet that needs a break from their noisy pen. Most shelters provide you with all the needed supplies and lots of guidance. Call your local shelter and ask about fostering opportunities.
Donate Your Cat or Dog’s Blood
This may seem a little morbid, but as veterinary medicine becomes more like human healthcare, donated cat or dog blood is being used for everything from injuries to anemia. Animal blood banks may either take donations or ask volunteers to help care for in-house donors (rescue pets) who are eventually adopted to forever homes. Visit the Association of Veterinary Hematology and Transfusion Medicine for a list of veterinary blood banks.
Host a Pet Craft Night
If you’ve got crafty friends, have them over to make simple cat toys or cat and dog beds. Adoptable pets usually keep these special souvenirs with them once they’re adopted. Call your shelter to see if they have any particular needs.
Become a Therapy Dog or Therapy Cat Team
Pet Partners, formerly the Delta Society, screens human/ pet teams for volunteer projects in hospitals, therapy centers and more. There are a few considerations to make before applying to become a registered therapy animal team (such as getting a veterinary check-up), so visit Pet Partners for the specifics.
Teach Your Dog or Cat to Read
Or rather, teach your dog or cat to pay attention to a child who’s reading. Animal organizations like Bideawee and Canine Assistants help kids who are having trouble reading by setting them up with an animal listener. The nonjudgmental attention of the cat or dog becomes a powerful motivator for struggling students.
Become a Search and Rescue Team
This one is for dog-owners only, and it’s best with young dogs, but it is one of the most impactful ways to give back. The American Rescue Dog Association (ARDA) trains volunteer human-canine teams to search for missing persons in conjunction with police or other emergency responders. Find training resource in your area by visiting ARDA.
Join Dog Scouts of America
Sorry cat folks, this is another dog-only. But it benefits everyone, as the Dog Scouts of America “is a non-profit organization of people who are dedicated to enriching their lives and the lives of others with dogs.” The organization has troops around the country that help people become more responsible dog owners, promotes the humane treatment of animals and provide some fun bonding time along the way. And yes, they have merit badges. There are over 60 badges for Community Service, Clean-up America, Water Safety, Backpacking, Agility and many more.
Take Up A Collection
Whether you bring your dog door-to-door or ask friends to stop by and say hi to your cat, it’s not too tough to provide a dumping ground for things people don’t want. Call your local shelter and see if they need old towels and blankets, cleaning supplies, or any other odds and ends, and tell your friends if they dump, you’ll deliver.
Be Shameless About Donations
If you have a birthday or holiday coming up, take one of those aww-inducing, ridiculously cute photos of your pet and create an email that asks your loved ones to forgo gifts and think of the animals. Provide a link to donate to your favorite charity.
Do a Charity Walk
Lots of charity walks are dog-friendly (and cat-stroller friendly for those of you who are so inclined). Contact the organizers of a local 5K to make sure you can bring you best bud along. There are even a few dog-centric walks like Paws for a Cause (against cancer) and the Doggie Dash Classic for homeless pets.
Photo via Flickr user Susan Ujka's Collection