Volunteer of the Month: Shelley G.

This Thanksgiving holiday, we’re especially grateful for our incredible group of volunteers, who day in and day out help keep Cat Town running. This month w’re shining the spotlight on Shelley G., a local artist and one of our regular volunteers who helps out in the Adoption Center Studios, socializing our hardest-to-place cat population. When she’s not at Cat Town, she enjoys spending time in her art studio with her two rambunctious cats, Lenny and Squiggy.

I talked with Shelley about meeting cats on their terms and how rewarding it is to see under-socialized cats come out of their shell (no pun intended).

Shelley makes regular weekly visits to Cat Town where she helps our cats get used to people.

Shelley makes regular weekly visits to Cat Town where she helps our cats get used to people.

Larissa C.: How did you get involved with Cat Town?

Shelley G.: Prior to my retirement, when I was still working at Summit Medical Center, I walked by the Cat Town storefront while it was still under construction. I had been thinking about where I would like to volunteer once I was no longer employed and had more time. I had never heard of Cat Town so I looked them up online and then came to a volunteer orientation meeting.

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

SG: Yes. My family had cats when I was growing up and one of my first paying jobs was doing vacation pet sitting for neighbors. My mother was raised on a farm in Iowa and every summer our family went to visit my grandparents. My first exposure to “working cats” were the barn cats that had the important job of rodent patrol. After the cows were milked, a generous bowl of fresh milk was left for the cats to enjoy. They slept in the hay loft, so they had a good life.

Shelley is a life-long cat lady!

Shelley is a life-long cat lady!

LC: Do you have cats at home?

SG: Currently, we have two cats Lenny and Squiggy (no, we did NOT choose their names!) who we adopted five years ago from the East Bay SPCA. They were a surrendered bonded pair and needed to remain together. At the time we met them, they had already been at the shelter for six months. Squiggy was very nervous and shy so he did not adapt well to shelter life. Once we got them home, he relaxed. Even though he still hides under our bed when we have guests, he is generally pretty mellow.

LC: What role do you play, or have you played, at Cat Town?

SG: I volunteer in the Adoption Center Studios to work with the shy and under-socialized cats to help them feel more accustomed to people. Sometimes that just consists of sitting and talking to the cats and letting them get familiar with a human voice. Other times, after they are feeling more comfortable, I use toys to interact with them. I always move very slowly and let the cats tell me what to do next.

LC: What do you love most about volunteering?

SG: It is really rewarding to see a shy or nervous cat begin to build confidence and show you their true personality. Coming from the shelter environment, it hard to know what they are really like until they can unwind and be themselves. I also love the dedicated staff at Cat Town who are so driven to provide better lives for the cats.

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

SG: Just seeing what a difference being in a quiet place like the Studios can make for them. They all have unique personalities that get a chance to shine once the fear is lessened.

Shelley always makes our cats feel safe and cared for. Photo by Cathy Niland.

Shelley always makes our cats feel safe and cared for. Photo by Cathy Niland.

LC: Why would you encourage people to adopt an under-socialized cat or kitten?

SG: They make wonderful pets; it just takes time to show them some love.

LC: What would you say to someone interested in volunteering at Cat Town?

SG: It’s very rewarding. There are many ways to assist even if you have an unpredictable schedule. You don’t have to have a regular shift; you can always do drop-in socializing in the Studios. There are also endless ways to help: you can deliver supplies, do cat sitting for fosters who are out of town, help with administrative tasks, support special adoption events, etc. If you have just a few extra hours to give, they can make use of your skills.

Be like Shelley — join team Cat Town and be part of our life-saving work! You can start with completing a volunteer application form or sending an email to  info@cattownoakland.org to learn how you can get involved and start making a difference.