6 Things I learnt From Spending 18 Months Working At A Cat Shelter

Over the past 18 months I have been part of an inspiring team of people who have opened my eyes to the world of animal welfare, with my own cat Willow with me every step of the way. Today, I had to say my goodbyes to what I can only describe as a dream job.

When I saw a marketing position advertised for Ten Lives Cat Centre in Hobart, the very same shelter where I adopted Willow from 10 years ago, I knew I had to have the job. I submitted my application and was lucky enough to secure an interview. After a nervous wait, I got the call and I got the job.

Though, there were some things I wasn’t entirely prepared for.

Of course, Willow was there with me on my first day. I gave her a smooch on the head as I left her to sleep in the van as I started this experience.

I was put to work writing content for their social media, driving traffic to their website, and helping with fundraising activities – I also got to photograph hundreds of cats – but I saw other opportunities.

I had one goal in my time there and that was to make an ongoing impact. I had the opportunity to improve their marketing and fundraising processes and develop an incredible volunteer creative team whose efforts I am so proud of.

Within our team, a big challenge was volunteer retention. I built a system where volunteers could work onsite or remotely to write social media content from material uploaded by our photographers. It meant that volunteers were able to get up to speed quickly and could make a valuable contribution on their very first shift.

Though, the biggest challenge was not taking home all those fluffy faces!

More often than not, Willow would come into work with us – she always got cranky when we left her at the cottage alone all day. I would drop Steph off in town and then drive to Ten Lives where Willow would jump up onto the dashboard to watch the birds. Soon, she would settle on the drivers seat for her nap.

At lunch times I would catch up with her to see how her day had been and give her some smooches. She would always get a bit of tuna if it was on the menu.

When it was time to go home, Willow was often reluctant to handover the driver’s seat…

Some afternoons, Alisha would walk into my office and hand me a kitten. ‘I need you to look after this for a while,’ she’d say as she left me on babysitting duties. The kitten would no doubt be hell-bent on getting into mischief as they explored the office. My only hope of getting any work done would be to wrap them up like a burrito and hope they fell asleep!

So what did I learn over those 18 months working in a cat shelter?

  1. The hard work and dedication of shelter operations and vet teams is awe-inspiring.
  2. Shelters need community support to survive, whether that is financial contributions or volunteer hours.
  3. The joy of helping a cat find a home never gets old.
  4. Nothing will prepare you for the heartbreak when things don’t go to plan.
  5. The operations team possess immeasurable strength in how they deal with difficult members of the public.
  6. Working or volunteering at a Cat shelter benefits the cats immensely, but is also deeply rewarding for the humans – and everyone there does it for the love of it!

My time at Ten Lives has been deeply rewarding. When Steph and I arrived back in Hobart last year, I was feeling a bit lost, but I feel I now have a renewed purpose.

The passion and dedication of the Ten Lives team has given me direction in my life and I now hope to continue in the animal welfare space all around Australia.

These experiences will be with me forever and I thank Joel and all the staff and volunteers who supported me along the way. I also thank Willow and Steph for being there for me.

Who knows what our next adventure will entail as we set off, once again, around Australia, but as I budged Willow off the driver’s seat on my very last day, all I could say to myself was… mission accomplished!

So long Ten Lives, and thanks for all the cats!

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