Volunteer of the Month: Julie W.

So much of the amazing work Cat Town does is in large part thanks to the tireless dedication of our volunteers. From helping with laundry to adoption counseling to event planning. One such volunteer is Julie W., who wears many hats at Cat Town and helps with a wide variety of projects.

I talked with Julie about why volunteering at Cat Town is such a rewarding experience, and how exciting it can be to see the progress our under socialized cats can make in even a short period of time.

Julie is one of the volunteers working to help shyer cats like Herman build positive relationships with humans in the Cat Zone. Photo by Cathy Niland.

Julie is one of the volunteers working to help shyer cats like Herman build positive relationships with humans in the Cat Zone. Photo by Cathy Niland.

Larissa C.: How many cats do you have at home?

Julie W.: I have three cats—Linus came with a bonded friend, Lucy, right after I started volunteering at Cat Town. Linus especially was super-shy and skittish (hence his name) and it’s been quite a learning experience to be his guardian.

Ivan (left) and Linus cuddle up at home.

Ivan (left) and Linus cuddle up at home.

I brought Ivan in as a foster after about a year—he was a stray at Oakland Animal Services (OAS) with a broken leg, but quite a confident guy. He and Linus bonded immediately, which was great because Lucy died not too much later from a tumor in her mouth. Ivan brought Linus out of his shell, to the point where he’s now something of a lap cat!

Then a couple of months ago, I decided we needed another girl around the house and I, rather impulsively, adopted Zoey after she’d been at Cat Town for just a few days. She has a meow that sounds like Fran Drescher, and holds her own really well with the boys—lately they’ve all started to tentatively groom each other.

And of course, they have their own Instagram account! @only_three_cats

LC: Have you been a cat person your whole life?

JW: We had cats and dogs growing up, but I’ve definitely leaned toward cats. The first cat that was really “mine” was Solomon, who came home in my pocket from a concert at Provo Park when I was in high school.

LC: How did you get involved with Cat Town?  

JW: I heard about Cat Town when the café first opened, and then discovered a friend’s daughter was a volunteer there. Eventually I went for a visit with my sister one morning.  I was working part-time and had no cats at the time, and thought it would be fun to hang out there so I signed up to be a volunteer.

Julie working to socialize Buzz in his studio space. Photo by Cathy Niland.

Julie working to socialize Buzz in his studio space. Photo by Cathy Niland.

LC: What have been your role(s) at Cat Town?

JW: I’ve done all kinds of stuff—mostly working my way up to adoption counselor and lead in the studios. My favorite job is collecting the adoption updates and publishing them on our community board. I love the cute stories and adorable photos that adopters send! I also do some case management for the less confident adoptions, and help with sending out weekly shift reminders. Somehow I keep volunteering for things …

LC: What inspired you to start working with Cat Town and our under socialized cats?

JW: I think that when I started out I really didn’t know about Cat Town’s mission and the types of cats that were there; I just wanted to hang out with cats!

Zoey, one of Julie's Cat Town alum, snuggles up on the couch.

Zoey, one of Julie's Cat Town alum, snuggles up on the couch.

LC: What is your favorite thing about working with vulnerable shelter cats?

JW: I really like seeing the progress a cat can make from one week to the next, based on the work we all do with them. I’m fondest of the “forgotten kittens” and have gotten pretty fearless about diving in for pets even when being hissed at. The best is when I hear a formerly untouchable cat has now allowed her adopter to pick her up for snuggles.

LC: What is something you’ve learned about under socialized cats during your time at Cat Town that you think people wouldn’t expect to be true?

JW: The most amazing thing to me is how the cats learn from each other how to be confident and take on new roles. Every time I think, “Oh no, all the confident cats have been adopted, what happens now?” I come in the next week and a few of the lurkers have come out of hiding to become the new confident cats!

LC: One of the many things you do for Cat Town is provide volunteer support. What would you say to someone interested in volunteering with Cat Town?

JW: Cat Town is a great place to volunteer—there are many things to do depending on your interests and talents, and the humans are just as wonderful as the cats. The longer you’re involved, the more you learn and the more fun it is!

Star (pictured here) is up for adoption, and as a trained Adoption Counselor, Julie could be the volunteer to connect Star to her match! Photo by Cathy Niland.

Star (pictured here) is up for adoption, and as a trained Adoption Counselor, Julie could be the volunteer to connect Star to her match! Photo by Cathy Niland.

Interested in joining Team Cat Town and helping us save Oakland’s vulnerable cats? We're always looking for volunteers to help with transportation, outreach and adoption events, fundraising, and more! Fill out a volunteer application or email info@cattownoakland.org to learn more about getting involved.

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