Cats Cradle and Kids!

Now that summer is here and school is out, we have had several calls from families inquiring about volunteer opportunities for children. Cats and kids are a great combination, but for the safety of children and cats, we need weekly housekeeping volunteers to be at least sixteen years old.
For younger people and their parents (and people who aren’t ready/able to adopt right now), we offer opportunities to help the cats during our bi-weekly Social Hours Tuesday 7-7:30pm and Saturday 5-5:30pm. Social Hours are separate from the Adoption Open House hours earlier on Tuesdays and Saturdays to allow the cats and volunteers to focus on prospective adopters during Adoption Open Houses (after all, a big part of our mission is to find forever families for the kitties!). End-of-day Social Hours help energetic cats wind down after busy adoption events and give shy or quiet cats (who might get over shadowed by their outgoing roommates) one-on-one time with familiar Social Hour visitors. You might choose to play, pet, or groom kitties during these times. Some people have even brought a book and simply sat quietly with cats that are learning to trust people but aren’t ready to play or lap-sit.  All children under 16 must be accompanied by a parent or other responsible adult when in the colony rooms.  Unaccompanied children will be asked to sit in the lobby until we can find their folks….and that’s not much fun!Melody
If you are interested in being a Social Hour visitor, we ask that you come in once for a tour during Adoption Open House (4pm on either Tuesday or Saturday works well as it tends to be a quiet time). Our tour guides will tell you about the cats, which ones need extra play or extra love; which ones are (or aren’t) child friendly; and which ones are slow to warm up to strangers. We may suggest high energy children visit/play with high energy rooms. Children who are learning to be comfortable with cats might like to start out by reading to a shy individual like Morticia or Melissa who won’t approach them or jump on them. It’s also important for all visitors, children and adults, to remember that many of our residents come from scary or traumatic situations so loud voices, excited squeals, and running feet are terrifying for them. Older children can understand directions to move slowly and speak gently, but self-control can be trickier for younger children. One enterprising mom started games at home called “Kitty Voice” and “Kitty Feet” – so when her child started getting excited, she gently mentioned that they were playing Kitty Voice or Kitty Feet at the shelter and the energy level went back down (boy, moms are smart!).Goldie 01 (0116)
We love to welcome small groups of visitors like Girls Scout troops or Sunday school classes. We have also done tours and kitty play time for birthdays. Forty-five minutes to an hour is about the right time for a tour and we do ask that groups bring extra parents along to enjoy the cats and help everyone remember the rules. Just call us at 701-356-7877 to schedule your group (we like to schedule these groups outside of adoption events because our shelter is small and we want to make sure everyone has a chance to interact with cats and ask questions, if they want to.)
High school or college groups are eligible to participate in Friday Nights Are WILD! – an immersive volunteer experience at the shelter, where the groups come in on a Friday night (hours are flexible) and spend one evening doing all the volunteer chores at the shelter (cleaning rooms, scooping boxes, washing floors, vacuuming, etc.) and get to play with the cats along the way. Please contact Jill at (that’s Jill with three “L”s) if your group wants to get WILD. We do need advanced notice as liability waivers and other information needs to be sent to your group ahead of time.
Sometimes, families can’t visit the shelter regularly (lake season and summer activities keep everyone hopping), but cat-loving kids might enjoy creating craft projects like simple, stuffed fabric shapes or braided polar fleece ropes (just Google “homemade cat toys” for tons of ideas). For safety and sanitation reasons, all toys must be machine washable (so cardboard tube toys don’t last long!) and please, no rubber bands; long, thin strings; googly eyes; bells; beads; or other small things that could be a choking hazard for the cats. Also, catnip doesn’t wash well (it molds), so there’s no need to “bait” the toys with ‘nip. Cat toys don’t have to be anything fancy…a simple 12×12” square, sewed into a tube and stuffed with polar fleece makes a great kicker toy. Simple mouse and fish shapes, sewed together and stuffed are always popular. If an adult can sew the basic shapes, even very young children can help stuff. When you visit for Social Hour, bring your toys and share with the kitties!Holiday & Lila 01 (1015)