One of our valued volunteers, Henry, is just one of the young people devoting their time to Cats Protection. As a Cat Care Volunteer at the Cornwall Adoption Centre while studying at the University of Exeter, he explains why spending time with the cats is just one of the many reasons to volunteer.
What made you decide to volunteer with Cats Protection?
I found starting university very stressful and needed an escape, something I could do to help relax and unwind and something that was rewarding too. I saw a video on Facebook of one of my flatmates petting a beautiful black cat – she had just begun volunteering with Cats Protection as the Cornwall Adoption Centre is only 15 minutes away from campus.
I immediately applied to be a Cat Care Volunteer. Helping with the morning cleaning at the centre, as well as spending the afternoon socialising with the cats helped to relieve a lot of stress. There was a positive shift in my overall mood and alertness as a result.
What does being a Cat Care Volunteer involve?
The main part of my role is the morning cleaning duties at the centre. Working with the Cat Care Assistants and other volunteers, I make sure the centre is clean to limit spread of diseases and provide a comfortable environment for the cats in our care. A usual day begins at 8am, where I’ll check the rota to see where I’ll be working and who I’ll be working with. Then the three main duties: feeding the cats, cleaning the front of the pens and cleaning the back of the pens, are shared among the team. Closely monitoring the behaviour, food intake, water intake and toileting habits of the cats is just as important, to ensure they are as healthy and happy as possible.
What course did you apply for at university? How do you think your volunteering skills helped with this?
I applied for History and Politics at the University of Exeter. I only discovered the true extent of my passion for animal care and animal welfare after starting university, which is why I am not studying a course more related to my volunteering role. Without university I would not have found my volunteering role, and would not have discovered just how rewarding I find being part of volunteering projects. Not only does volunteering help benefit and strengthen your university application, but university also provides a huge array of new, exciting, and exclusive volunteering opportunities.
How do you balance volunteering with your university course?
Balancing life at university is always tough at first; it just takes a little bit of time and practice. I found the easiest way for me to balance the two was to devote one day a week to my volunteering role, and the other six to my course. I found this to be a fair and enjoyable balance, although I did occasionally devote a little more time to my volunteering role when my university workload was lighter than usual, or if I was becoming too stressed and needed more time to unwind. I would encourage anyone who is trying to balance volunteering and a university course to experiment with different ratios of the two, and just see what feels the most comfortable. For me, university is not just about studying; it is about making the most of the opportunities that I’m given and pursuing whatever I am passionate about.
What is your favourite part about volunteering with Cats Protection?
It is almost too difficult to choose! I do enjoy the cleaning, because I like the structure and routine of it each week. And I definitely love socialising with all of the lovely cats and kittens that spend time in our care. But I would have to say that my favourite part of volunteering is the atmosphere; everyone, staff and volunteers alike, is so lovely and kind. Everyone shares the same passion and empathy for cats, and many other animals too. I quite often find myself bonding with my colleagues over the love of certain cats in the centre, and there are always plenty of interesting and funny stories about what the cats have been getting up to!
What are you looking to do after university? Do you have a specific career in mind?
Before I came to university I didn’t know what I wanted to do once I had graduated. I briefly considered further study but didn’t feel that it was right for me. Since volunteering with Cats Protection, I have become very interested in animal care and the charity and volunteering sector. I want to find something that I find as enjoyable and rewarding as the role I currently do and I think that being a Cat Care Assistant could be just that. But I know that I may not be fully qualified for a role that is very hands-on in animal care, so a role in the behind-the-scenes of the charity might be a more realistic career ambition.
For more information on Cats Protection’s Duke of Edinburgh programme (suitable for those aged 14-24), visit www.cats.org.uk/get-involved/volunteering/ways-to-volunteer/dofecp