Donating or Volunteering at your Local Animal Shelter// An Infinite Smile Project Idea

Animal shelters all over the country tend to stay at full capacity. Most are running on a limited budget, and rely heavily on donations. With one visit to a shelter you can’t help but want to help. Some things shelters need are obvious, some are not. Helping may not be as hard as you think, and here are a few things you can donate to shelters:

1) Towels// We all wear out our towels. Some get fringe-y at the ends or dingy and discolored with holes in them. Guess what? The animals don’t care! Often, animals are brought in wet or cold. Sometimes, they just want something to lie on. Towels are very versatile and can be used as blankets, to dry a wet animal, or to clean messes the animals make at the shelter.

2) Old blankets// These can be used similar to the towels by being cut up to use in cages with smaller animals, or left whole for the larger animals because all of them love things to lay on. People often throw old and tattered blankets away, but shelters love them. Check yard sales, too. Often, people sell them very cheap and you can pass it on to animals in need.

3) Food// Dog food, cat food, or any other kind of animal food for the animals your shelter takes in. Sometimes, when the budget is stretched, food is needed badly. Consider using coupons or sales to get food at a discounted price to donate. Both dry and canned food can be used. Full bellies make animals happier in a scary situation. Mother’s milk replacements (you can buy this at Walmart or pet supply stores such as Petsmart).

4) Treats// Treats are often on sale at stores, and can be purchased cheap. Both dogs and cats look forward to these treats whenever they can get their paws on them. Most any kind is appreciated and Rawhide bones are also well loved.

5) Placemats// Tired of your placemats and looking to redecorate? Have old ones stored that you never use? Cloth and vinyl placemats are both useful by allowing cats to lay on them; vinyl mats can be used under food bowls; and cloth ones can be used for a kitty sized bed. It does not matter if they are stained or “dated”.

6) Cash// Of course, monetary donations are always appreciated and the shelter can use the money to purchase exactly what their animals need. Go to to apply for a food coupon for YOUR pet, and Purina will give $1 to your local shelter. Every single dollar helps. Donate a couple of dollars of your own to help stretch the shelter’s budget, and most of the time, these donations are tax deductible.

7) Toys// If you were alone in a cage, wouldn’t you want something to play with? Check with your shelter as some take them and some don’t; but animal toys are often overlooked, and they wear out fast. Squeaky toys, stuffed animals and even balls are played with by our furry friends.

8) Litter// Most shelters have lots and lots of cats, and have to change litter often. They can always use more litter as well as litter boxes for the many cats and kittens that are saved.

9) Laundry Detergent// Blankets, towels and cloth/material items have to be washed. Laundry detergent, if not donated, comes out of the shelter’s budget. Fabric softener is also very welcome!

10) Grooming Items// Animals need to be bathed, brushed, and taken care of. Items to help groom them are not often donated, you can change that by picking up these things from a dollar or discount store. Brushes, combs, shampoos, even animal nail clippers are useful and needed items.

11) Cat or Dog Beds// If you have them, if you see them on sale, or if you know someone getting rid of theirs…animal beds are so loved by the animals. A soft place to lay and relax. Comfort is important.

12) Leashes and Collars// Shelters often use them to walk animals, and give them away with adoptions, so they are always in short supply. They aren’t very expensive, but when you go through so many, the cost adds up for the shelters. All sizes are needed and used.

13) Newspaper// Lots of us have newspapers, which shelters use to line the bottoms of cages for puppies and kittens. It something that takes no effort to collect, but makes a lot of difference. Imagine how often those papers need to be changed!!! If you get the paper daily, why not set them aside in a box or something similar and take them ever so often to your local shelter?

14) Food dishes and Bowls// Can you imagine how many of these shelters go through on a regular basis? They get worn out, pushed around, and broken. New ones are also something that isn’t expensive, but eats into a shelter budget.

15) Time// Can you go play with the animals on occasion? Can you help walk them, feed them, or care for them? Do you have room at your home to foster a loving pet until if finds a forever home? Shelters are often over-crowded, and sometimes under-staffed. Most are very happy to have volunteers. So much needs to be done on a day to day basis that often animals don’t get the attention they long for. Even the smallest amount of time can make a huge difference at a shelter. Consider one day a week after work, or a couple of hours on a weekend. Consider opening your home to a foster animal or two. The shelter and the animals will be grateful.

Contact your local shelters and find out what they need and how you can help! They may need things that aren’t listed here; some could use baby gates for wandering animals, or for shelters that take in smaller animals such as rabbits or guinea pigs, might need things like cages and water bottles. Your local shelter will be more than happy to let you know what they need. It takes very little to make a difference in the lives of animals, check out the animal shelter resources below:

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA)
Pet Finder
The Humane Society of the United States
Adopt a Pet
The Shelter Pet Project