Cat lovers’ dream vacation

Two friends who volunteer at the Cat Adoption Team in Sherwood, Oregon, take volunteer vacations to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. Read their story.
By Christelle L. Del Prete

Volunteers Natalie Pascale and Deborah Hur wearing Best Friends hats, posing in front of Cat World HQIt’s no surprise that when Natalie Pascale and Deborah Hur volunteer at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, they spend most of their time in Cat World. Back at home in the Pacific Northwest, they volunteer with cats at the Cat Adoption Team (CAT) in Sherwood, Oregon. As a Best Friends Network partner, CAT is one of the organizations working hard alongside Best Friends to bring the nation to no-kill by 2025. Volunteers like Natalie and Deb play a crucial role in that lifesaving work and in the partnership.

Partnership helps save more cats

With the help of transport volunteers, Best Friends periodically transfers to CAT healthy adoptable cats. Although these cats would likely find homes through adoption from the Sanctuary or another Best Friends Lifesaving Center, there is a high demand for adoptable cats in the Pacific Northwest. This means that once the felines arrive at CAT, they are adopted quickly. In turn, Best Friends can then save more cats at risk in shelters across the nation.

Karen Green, CAT’s executive director, says that since the partnership between the two organizations began in January of 2015, CAT has taken in 564 cats from Best Friends and placed them into new homes.

A favorite CAT adoption

One of Karen and Deb’s favorite examples of this partnership at work was the adoption of a cat named Angelique. Angie came to Best Friends as a young playful cat who just needed to shed a few pounds. Because her favorite game was chasing a laser light, it wasn’t hard for her to get the exercise she needed to become healthier and happier. But although Angie was very popular with both staff and volunteers at the Sanctuary, she wasn’t snatched up for adoption right away — that is, until she hitched a ride on a transport to CAT.

When she first arrived at CAT, says Karen: “She moved into our volunteer office where she was taken on walks on a harness and leash or in a stroller around the building and generally fawned over. As soon as we moved Angie to Purringtons Cat Lounge, one of our off-site adoption locations, it took her exactly one day to find a fantastic home.”

Deb, who’s been a CAT adoption counselor and caregiver for the past two-and-a-half years, helped with Angie’s adoption in 2017, and it’s remained one of her favorites.

Natalie volunteering at Cat World with a black cat on her shoulder

Cat volunteer work

On top of having a full-time job, Natalie, a four-year CAT volunteer, dedicates nearly 900 hours a year to the cats. She is primarily an adoption counselor, but she also trains new adoption counselors, manages one of CAT’s off-site adoption centers and trains new volunteers. She’s also involved in the CAT Helpline, a valuable resource for local residents who need help with cats.

Find animal volunteer opportunities near you

Natalie and Deb’s recent visit to the Sanctuary was their second. They first visited in 2017 to celebrate their birthdays (in October), but loved the Sanctuary so much that they booked the second trip on their way home.

While they do spend time socializing with and snuggling cats at Cat World, Natalie and Deb’s favorite thing to do is to be helpful to the caregivers. “We know a lot of volunteers focus on socializing cats, but it’s more important to us to be useful to the caregivers in any way we can,” says Natalie. “We want help the caregivers by cleaning, so that they will have more time to spend with the cats.”

“At CAT, it’s really helpful to have volunteers who can do a lot of cleaning when we are busy on high adoption days,” says Deborah.

Volunteer Deborah posing with a brown tabby cat

Paving the way to no-kill 2025

When visiting the Sanctuary, they also like to visit a cat named Ooms and take her on sleepovers. Ooms was originally rescued by CAT, but later transferred to Best Friends because she needed extra help with a tail-pull injury.

Another favorite is a cat named Cisco, who has several health challenges, including feline leukemia (FeLV). “FeLV does not seem to be that common where we live,” says Deb, “but if cats with FeLV come in, we will keep them and find them homes.”

Whether they’re cleaning cat rooms, snuggling cats with medical challenges or helping yet another adoptable cat find a loving home, the work done by Natalie and Deb is a shining example of how dedicated volunteers can really make a difference and help pave the pathway to no-kill 2025.

Love cats? Find a volunteer opportunity near you.

Volunteer Natalie posing with a Best Friends Cat World sign and fan in front of a display at Cat World HQ

Photos courtesy of Deborah Hur and Natalie Pascale