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I decided to select a project through the volunteer organization I belong to dealing with cats at the neighborhood pound. I call it neighborhood but it was not my own neighborhood. When I arrived at the small agency the noise level of the dogs barking was deafening. I was almost ready to turn around and go home because the place was extremely small and claustrophobic and filled from ceiling to floor with excited animals of all shapes, sizes and breeds.

The team leader was late, and the person there gave me a form to fill out which took a while. She asked for ID which I didn’t bring anything but a credit card, which was good enough. She asked if I had any experience handling cats and I said I’ve had cats since I was 2 years old, and everyone’s cats were friendly to me once they got to know me. Finally the team leader arrived and we went to the back of the place as I managed to keep out of the way of a couple of handlers pulling dogs out of cages for walks. The cats were all packed in various size cages and were excited to see a new person.

I put on a different shirt so I could work, and went for instructions. The woman who had me fill out the application explained how to clean the pans, cage floors and food dishes, how much food to put and how much litter to use. I was a little taken aback at the little amount of litter but she said their cages are cleaned on a daily basis so it was fine - one scoop. She selected the cages of three of the problem cats (very territorial and could be mean and nasty) for me to clean, I guess I was being tested. Now there were several volunteers so the space was getting crowded and everyone was on line to get to the sink. While I waited my turn, I got to know the problem cats who didn’t seem to have a problem with me because I talk to them. I realized that most of the volunteers were just going through the motions of cleaning, not really socializing with the cats. Ten minutes with me, everyone was talking - cats and humans.

There were so many kittens I couldn’t keep count. I had the adults, but whenever I had the chance I would play with the kittens as well who were soon trying to snag my clothes when I was within paw reach. One cat was so huge, I couldn’t imagine getting him out of the cage, so I just worked around him talking to him and scolding him when his love bites hurt. I was able to clean five cages in the space of 2 hours which I thought was good for my first time there, and felt good that all five cats were happy enough after their encounter with me, to eat, drink and curl up for a nap. Even the calico from hell who made a scene when I tried to remove her pan. I told her after all that love and chit chat we had you have the nerve to bite and scratch? The woman showed me a less painful way to deal with her and when I finished I said to the ginger cat, see that? Now don’t you feel bad about scratching me? She muttered something and rubbed my hand as if to say ‘I just don’t like people messing with my stuff, thanks though.’

I have always had an ability to talk and comprehend “Cat-ese” and wondered being cat-less for almost 16 years whether I could still understand their complaints. I was washing a food bowl and through the noisy din of barking, meowing and mewing, I heard a scream of pain. Immediately I looked around and located a kitten whose volunteer latched the cage door on its tail. I caught the volunteer’s attention and told her what she did and she ran over to correct it. She asked me “OMG, with all the noise in here how did you pick that up?” I smiled and said, “I understand CAT.”

It was hard work but very rewarding work, and I believe I made some kitty friends in the process. The next time I return, I’m bringing some rolls of paper towels (which they usually can’t afford, but I think are necessary because I can’t see wiping a food dish with the same disinfecting rag I cleaned the litter pans with.), as well as some stronger gloves because they chewed through 3 pairs. The team leader told me three of her cats came from this pound and she was wondering what’s one more. But for the time being, I’ll just help out at the shelter because my place is not ready for four furry legs right now. I think out of the few projects I have done for this organization, cat care was the one that made me smile all weekend.

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