Where You Can Cuddle Cats In Your Free Time

The activity is as beneficial for people as it is to animals, and Pittsburgh-area shelters offer many cuddling opportunities.
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A volunteer opportunity at some Pittsburgh-area animal shelters is as beneficial to humans as it is for pets: cuddling, particularly with kitties.

Beyond helping to socialize shelter cats to prepare them for adoption, cuddling can have stress-relieving physiological benefits for humans, according to scientists at Washington State University, who studied the issue.

“Just 10 minutes can have a significant impact,” said Patricia Pendry, an associate professor in WSU’s Department of Human Development, in a press release. “Students in our study that interacted with cats and dogs had a significant reduction in cortisol, a major stress hormone.”

At the same time, social interaction between people and pets can increase levels of the “happy hormone” oxytocin, according to Dr. Jeremy Barron, medical director of the Beacham Center for Geriatric Medicine at Johns Hopkins, in a release.

These are reasons why many universities bring out shelter dogs and cats on campus during exam time to help lower students’ stress levels.

Beyond making cats (and people) happy, cuddling can also help to get a cat adopted sooner. Not-so-friendly cats are often written off by adopters, but petting and spending some extra time with these misunderstood animals may turn them into loving cats over time. 

If you’re an animal lover with a soft spot for cats, here is a sampling of shelters in Pittsburgh where you can volunteer to cuddle some cats in your free time.

Animal Advocates 

Located in the West End, Animal Advocates is a cat oasis on the top floor and a thrift shop on the bottom. The thrift shop holds hundreds of unique cat-related knick knacks, and 100% of your purchase will go toward cat care. Upstairs, the shelter holds more than 10 adoptable cats

This shelter is different from most, as their cats are free to roam around the second level, which has a built-in cat-io. The shelter provides the cats with a more enjoyable life while awaiting adoption. 

Animal Advocates cares for and socializes cats that come from rough places. Many cats arrive scared of people, but ample time with compassionate volunteers has turned many cats into loving pets.  

Volunteering to cuddle them can play a large role in helping prepare them for adoption, says Lorraine, a volunteer. She tells the story of Pia, a feral cat who entered the shelter terrified of people. 

“Pia did not like people,” says Lorraine.  She took small steps each day from speaking gently to her to giving her soft caresses and eventually cuddling with her. “With baby steps every day, she soon came to be a very loving cat who loves pets, treats and toys.” 

Visitors are welcome to walk in and meet the cats any time, but to become a cat-cuddler or to help socialize, you must apply as a volunteer. Volunteers are also needed to transport animals to veterinarian appointments, other shelters, foster and/or adoptive homes.

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Kitty Queen Cat Rescue

Another shelter with space for their cats to roam and play, Kitty Queen Cat Rescue in Ross is the purrfect place to stop by and cuddle. You don’t have to be a volunteer to cuddle cats here. For a $5 appointment, visitors can stop by and hang out.

The cat lounge is a cat-lover hotspot where visitors can relax, watch TV, drink beverages, and, of course, interact with the adoptable cats. There are also events such as Yoga Nights, Mew-vie Nights, Crafts & Cats, Wine & Whiskers and Bingo, which are graced by the presence of the cats.

If you’re interested in becoming a designated cat-cuddler, you can apply as a volunteer. Anyone over age of 13 can apply, even with limited availability. 

Humane Animal Rescue of Pittsburgh

The Humane Animal Rescue of Pittsburgh is the largest pet shelter in the region, with locations in Homewood and the North Side, so volunteers are always needed. Regardless of your experience level, there are many volunteer opportunities to get your animal fix while making a difference in the community.

HARP volunteers can walk dogs, foster animals, greet adopters, and, of course, cuddle cats. Even if you can’t provide the commitment to foster or provide physical activity, cuddling makes a lasting impact.

 To become a volunteer, you must provide clearances to be approved. Clearances include training, scheduling and physical requirements. Once approved, volunteers are required to provide 2 hours of services each week, but when it comes to cat cuddling, two hours can go by quickly. 

Anyone over age 16 interested in volunteering can reach out to: volunteer@humaneanimalrescue.org to get started. 

For those located outside of the city, The Beaver County Humane Society also is looking for cat cuddlers. 

Categories: BeWell, The 412