Friday, January 18, 2008

Calling All People Who Enjoy Sewing, Knitting, or Crocheting

For most dogs and cats, shelters are a scary place. They are full of new and scary smells and sounds, and there is constant commotion going on. Pets who used to live in a home have an even harder time adjusting to the chaotic environment of a shelter. Cold steel cages and concrete runs with no material comforts are typically the temporary homes for shelter pets which only exacerbates an animal's stress.

Sadly, stressed animals often hide, display fearful behaviors, shy from human contact, and act unfriendly. Moreover, stressed pets, especially cats, are much more susceptible to common shelter illnesses, such as upper respiratory infections. These conditions all conspire to make it incredibly challenging for many terrified and confused pets to "look good" for potential adopters. Sadly, the pets that most urgently need out of the shelter for the well being of their emotional health are the ones passed by adopters because their personality is overshadowed by their stress and fear.

Amazingly, simply providing a small blanket for a shelter cat or dog can significantly reduce that pet's level of stress, make the pet more comfortable, and give them a sense of security. Reducing the stress and fear of shelter pets allows them to better show potential adopters their true personalities, increasing the chance that someone will pick them.

If you enjoy sewing, knitting or crocheting, you can be literally be a lifesaver for a shelter pet. The Cage Comforter Program was started in 2001 as a cooperative effort between the Center for Animal Care and Control in New York City and the Compassionate Action Institute.

This collaboration was a resounding success. In the 2 years while the program was active, volunteers provided approximately 10,000 comforters for shelter pets. The results are tangible. In one Pennsylvania shelter that adopted the Cage Comforter Program, the shelter reported that it did not have to euthanize any cats during the summer months - a first for that shelter.

If you would like to make comforters for shelter pets, first, contact your local shelter to see if they would be interested in receiving beds. Some shelters may not want to institute such a program, simply because the comforters may entail more work for shelter employees or volunteers. On the other hand, many shelters simply send the comforters with an animal when it is adopted, or it is thrown away if the animal is euthanized. If your shelter already has a program in place, great! You can get started making comforters right away. If not, you'll probably need some help. Ask your friends and family if they'd be interested in assisting you. Ask seniors in your community. Ask a local sewing or knitting club. The possibilities are endless. Please visit the Compassionate Action Institute for instructions on how to make the comforters, ideas about who to recruit to make the comforters, and ideas about soliciting donations and supplies.