If you’ve ever adopted from Cat Town before, you’ve had the pleasure of working with one of our adoption counselors. They help guide adopters through the entire adoption process, from determining which cat (or pair of cats!) would be a great fit to finalizing the necessary paperwork, and are a vital part of Cat Town.
This month we’re turning the spotlight on Nicole G., one such counselor who helps our cats find loving homes. Not only does she volunteer each week in the Cat Zone, but she is also a case manager; following-up and working with adopters of some of our special cats who might need a little time to adjust to a new home.
I talked with Nicole about the magic of seeing cats transform during their time at Cat Town, and why volunteering is such a rewarding experience.
Larissa C.: How did you get involved with Cat Town?
Nicole G.: I heard about Cat Town when the café first opened; I was living on the peninsula at the time and came up to visit with some friends. In June of 2015 I ended up moving to Oakland, and I immediately signed up to volunteer! When I visited for the first time and learned about what Cat Town was doing to help save cats, I was instantly hooked. I had never volunteered with any kind of animal rescue before, and finding Cat Town was an incredible blessing.
LC: Have you been a cat person your whole life?
NG: I grew up as a child with two magnificent cats, Wallis and Winifred, and my parents got their current cat, Audrey, as a kitten when I was in high school. I was always resistant to having a pet of my own when I was younger because I didn’t think of myself as an “animal person.” During college, I would go on long walks along the same route and I befriended a stray cat who I brought treats to and played with, which got me thinking. When I finished college, I got my older cat, Dez, when she was still a small kitten from some friends who couldn’t keep her anymore. I didn’t know quite as much about cat behavior at the time, and I memorably traded my mini fridge for the privilege of being her guardian!
LC: Do you have cats at home?
NG: Do I! I have two—Dez, who is an eight-year-old calico tabby, and Ember, a four-year-old dilute calico tabby I adopted about three years ago from Cat Town when she was part of the Forgotten Kitten project. Together they are DezEmber or, if you’re feeling frisky, EmbEzzler!
LC: What do you love most about volunteering as an adoption counselor for Cat Town?
NG: I think the best part is making a match and seeing how open people can be to helping these animals who really need our love and support. It’s incredibly rewarding to see a cat go from being scared and untouchable to finding a loving home where they can open up and be someone’s companion.
LC: What is something you’ve learned about under-socialized cats and kittens that people might not expect to be true?
NG: It seems really obvious, but I would say that their behavior isn’t an essential feature of their “personalities.” Since the average person knows so much less about cat behavior than, for example, dog behavior, I think a lot of people are hesitant to believe you can behaviorally retrain cats at all. I like to think of it as a trust-building process! Once your under-socialized cat or kitten trusts you, they really do show a whole new side of themselves.
LC: What is your favorite thing about working with vulnerable shelter cats?
NG: I love seeing the transformations — when you first meet a cat and they’re so stressed or shut-down that they can’t interact with you, it can be scary. But when you invest in building their trust, amazing things can happen!
LC: Why would you encourage people to adopt an under-socialized cat or kitten?
NG: They are so loving! I know this from experience with my cat Ember. When I first brought her home, she lived in a large closet for the first couple of months while I continued to socialize her every day (reading aloud, playing, sometimes just sitting quietly next to her). Everyone in my life thought I was delusional and that I would never be able to pet her, let alone keep her as a pet! But she has turned out to be one of the most affectionate and beautifully quirky cats I’ve ever known. She loves to head-butt me while I pet her head to the rhythm she’s got going, and she is an elevator-butt queen!
LC: Can you share one of your favorite memories of volunteering at Cat Town?
NG: The once-in-a-lifetime highlight for me would probably be when I came into a regular shift day to find an impromptu cat-wine tasting organized by a reporter from the New York Times! Besides that, I would say seeing some of our longest-term Cat Zone cats, like Elsa, Buffy, and Suzy, find loving families and homes after 1+ years with Cat Town.
LC: What would you say to someone considering volunteering at Cat Town
NG: Do it! The community of volunteers and staff at Cat Town is so incredibly welcoming, and the work we are doing is really rewarding. There is room for everyone, and we’re in this together, which for me has been a refreshing and restorative spirit to take part in and be around.
Interested in joining the Cat Town volunteer team to help save Oakland’s vulnerable and under-socialized cats? Visit cattownoakland.org/volunteer today to let us know what volunteer opportunities you're interested in getting involved with!