Top 10 Gifts for Your Local Animal Shelter or Pet Rescue

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What are things most animal shelters and pet rescues need? Are there things you should not give to animal shelters? How to help your local animal shelter with your gifts. Can I give my unwanted pet supplies to the local animal shelter? What can I dona

All year long animal shelters and pet rescues are in need of donations, gifts, and things to help them help the pets and animals they care for every day. Below is a list of things you should consider as great gifts for your local animal shelter or pet rescue. If you are not sure if an animal shelter exists in your area, phone a veterinarian and they will let you know.

1.  Cash. The number one most needed item by animal shelters is cash. With this they can pay their staff, vet bills, utility costs, buy food, or what ever is needed. Most are run as charities, being non-profit, some get money from the government, others get no help.  Cash donations go a long way, and most shelters have a charitable status so your cash donation will be given a tax receipt for you to claim on your income tax. This is a win-win gift.

2.  Pet Food. Animal Shelters always need food for their pets and donations of food are greatly appreciated, but before you rush out and buy just any food, call the shelter and see what they need most. Some shelters try to feed only one brand of food because changing brands causes tummy upset. Some shelters get foods donated that they will not feed. At certain times of the year they may need more kitten or puppy food (usually summer and fall) where as at other times of the year they mostly need adult food. Do not forget food for smaller animals such as rabbits or birds if your shelter houses them too. On the whole for cats and dogs, pick a food that is chicken and rice, or lamb and rice, as these are the gentlest on the pets tummy.

3.  Pet Supplies. Again it is best to call the shelter and see what they need before rushing out to the store. Many animal shelters and pet rescues will not use donated plastic bowls because they cannot be properly disinfected, but love stainless steel bowls. What kind of cat litter do they use, clumping, or non-clumping? Do they need more litter boxes, or dog collars? Do they need chew sticks for their small animals? 

painting of cats eyes

Painting by author, not for reproduction.

4.  Pet Toys. Pet Shelters often have more cat toys than they know what to do with, and not enough dog toys. This is because dogs are destructive and will often ruin their toys after a period of time, where as cat toys last a long time. As such most shelters need dog toys. Find out what sizes of dog your shelter houses predominantly and get toys appropriate for that size of dog. Most shelters require toys for larger dogs, big rope toys, and large kong type toys work great, but so do footballs and soccer balls.  Animal shelters also appreciate edible chews, such as bully sticks, for the dogs.

5.  Blankets and Bedding. These are gifts that usually do not have to cost you a cent. Donate your old, but not ruined, towels, and blankets. Pets need bedding material in their cages, and these are changed daily in most shelters. In the cases of dogs sometimes they need their bedding changed more often and sometimes they destroy their blankets altogether, so replacing them is important.

6.  Give the Gift of Time. One thing animal shelters and pet rescues always need is volunteers. Most volunteers spend their time walking dogs, which is important. Only a few shelters allow volunteers to help clean cages, but you can offer to fold laundry, or wash dishes. Grooming is important, and cats need to be played with also. Do not forget that bunnies and caged animals need attention and love.

7.  Office Supplies. Many people forget that animal shelters have other needs that do not revolve around the pets. They need office supplies such as pens, and paper.

8.  Cleaning Supplies. The shelter might need paper towel, toilet paper and so forth, even light bulbs. They probably can use rubber gloves and washcloths.

9.  Do Not Forget the Staff. Staff at animal shelters, are true animal lovers. In shelters that are forced to euthanize animals (due to health or overcrowding) it is extremely difficult and the general public often accuses the staff of being uncaring. Give them a fruit tray, or some other goodies. Avoid giving chocolate as this can be deadly to dogs and you wouldn't want an accidental problem with your gift.

10.  Put "Adopting a Pet" on your List. If you have room in your heart, home and life, for a pet, consider adoption. Most shelters will not adopt pets out over the holidays, as this is a stressful time, also they want to be sure the pet is not acquired on a whim. Never give a pet to somebody as a gift, if you know somebody who wants a pet give them a certificate to adopt, in this way they can select their own pet as they are more likely to bond with a pet they have selected.

As a Bonus, please take care of your own pets.  Spaying and neutering our pets is the best way of reducing stress on animal shelters and pet rescues world wide. 

Additional Gift Links

Top 10 Gifts for Dog Owners

Top 10 Gifts for Cat Owners

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Top 10 Gifts for Animal Lovers

Pet Care Links

Tips for if you are Forced to Surrender your Dog to a Shelter

Tips for if you are Forced to Surrender your Cat to a Shelter


Posted on Dec 23, 2010
Alistair Briggs
Posted on Nov 24, 2009
Posted on Nov 15, 2009
Posted on Nov 15, 2009