Volunteer of the Month: Shanti P.

Cat Town has an incredible team of dedicated volunteers, many of whom go above and beyond just a weekly shift. One such volunteer is Shanti P., who volunteers in our adoption center, as well as helps with the Forgotten Kitten Project and the recently launched case manager program, which offers advice and support to recent adopters of cats who may need a little more time to adjust to a new home. Shanti has also fostered several cats for Cat Town, and as a registered veterinary technician she’s been able to foster difficult medical cases.

I talked with Shanti about her recent Cat Town foster fail with Huey and why special needs cats like him make for extra special companions.

Shanti with bonded brothers, Rico and Shaz, during a volunteer shift in the Cat Zone. 

Shanti with bonded brothers, Rico and Shaz, during a volunteer shift in the Cat Zone. 

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

Shanti P.: A few years ago, I had to stop working because of some health issues, but I still wanted to be active and I wanted to help animals as much as I could. I’d been to Cat Town a few times already and saw the good work they did and it seemed like the perfect place to volunteer.

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

SP: Absolutely! I had a zoo of animals growing up, but I’ve almost always had a cat and had the most special bonds with them. There are pictures of me as a baby crawling around and playing with kittens, all scratched up and not caring one bit. I feel like my home is empty without cats.

LC: You do a lot for Cat Town. What have been your volunteer roles in our organization?

Shanti and Huey just before she fostered him.

Shanti and Huey just before she fostered him.

SP: I’m a registered veterinary technician so my first thought was that I wanted to help out on the medical side of things. I would assist the medical staff with vaccinations, giving pills, nail trims, and assessing potentially sick kitties. I also volunteer in both the Cat Zone and in the Studios. I’ve gotten training to work with the Forgotten Kitten Project so I can help some of our sweet but under socialized little fur babies. I just started working as a case manager to follow up and offer help to some of our special cats who might need a little time adjusting to a new home. I've also taken in fosters, usually medical cases, and just had my first “foster fail” with handsome Huey.

LC: Congrats on your foster-fail, by the way! Huey is a cat who deals with medical challenges. Can you tell us a little about your story?

SP: It was love at first sight, though I tried to deny it. Huey came into Cat Town with a tail injury and in the early days, he had many issues, like not being able to empty his bladder on his own. He was set up in one of the studios and I would come in twice a day and express his bladder for him to give him some relief. He was always such an angel, and even when he was in pain he was never angry at me and always wanted to cuddle right after. He started to come running up when I’d enter his studio with happy little meows and I’d call him my “kitty boyfriend.” He eventually improved so I didn’t need to express his bladder and is now taking medicine to keep him from leaking too much but he never regained feeling or motion in his tail. When the time came to amputate it, I let the staff know that if he needed foster care afterwards I would be willing to take him in.

I thought it was just going to be a fostering situation. I have an older cat, Clover, who is very skittish and shy about other cats and usually only “tolerates” these foster cats of mine. However, I underestimated Huey’s charms! He was so happy to be in a home and very clearly smitten with Clover, but he was a gentleman about it. He went slow when I introduced them and he let her have her space. He would make gentle nudges and give her the sweetest little meows and before long they were napping together, grooming each other, and playing together. Clover has never been a big player and has always been afraid of nearly everything, but I can see Huey teaching her and giving her confidence. He’s so happy and content here that we’ve become a little family without even trying.

Clover and huey enjoying their shared kitty cubes.

Clover and huey enjoying their shared kitty cubes.

LC: Do you work with cats or other animals in any other capacity?

SP: I have a 13-year history of working as a veterinary technician in many different kinds of practices. General practice, specialty medicine, emergency medicine, etc. I also do pet sitting and just got trained to foster baby squirrels although I haven’t had any yet this season.

LC: What is your favorite thing about working with our vulnerable shelter cat population?

SP: These are the cats that need us the most. The ones who are scared or shy or even angry from the trauma of their lives and being in a shelter. Cat Town gives them safety, love, and patience and that’s all it really takes. I love those moments when things start to click for them, that maybe humans aren’t all so bad and scary after all. When they start taking treats from you, start playing, start letting you pet them, and then start realizing how much they actually love being pet—it makes me feel like my heart is growing as I watch theirs open up.

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?

SP: That there is no such thing as a cat who can’t be saved with love. I’ve seen the most hissy, swatty kitties have their jaded hearts melted with the right amount of love and time. Cats are complex and feel things deeply just like people and it’s all about finding the right personality for your home.

LC: Why would you encourage people to adopt a special needs or under-socialized cat?

SP: Because when you save them, they understand and the bond between you is that much deeper for it. To know you earned their trust against everything their instincts or experience might be telling them means so much. You both fought to find love.

Shanti with her former Cat Town foster, Matilda, one of the cats she cared for with medical needs. 

Shanti with her former Cat Town foster, Matilda, one of the cats she cared for with medical needs. 

With new kittens arriving at the shelter, Cat Town is looking for fosters! If you have a quiet space in your home and time to give an under socialized or sick older cat or kitten, you could be a great foster parent. Our team will match you with a cat that fits your interests and experience and can also provide you with lots of guidance and support. Send an email to info@cattownoakland.org for more information.

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