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A Day in the Life of a Shelter Volunteer

A day in the life of a Japan Cat Network volunteer as told by Jojo a current volunteer at the Fukushima shelter.

Hi there! Jojo here! I'm a volunteer at Japan Cat Network and I’m here to tell you all about a typical day in the life of a shelter volunteer. I’ve been here for four weeks now, halfway through my two months of volunteering, so I’m well and truly settled into the swing of things. There are currently four volunteers at the Fukushima Shelter and we work either a morning shift from 9:30 - 14:30, an evening shift from 16:00 - 21:00 or a split shift from 9:30 - 12:30 and again from 19:30 - 21:00. We’ve each committed to working 28 hours a week in exchange for a place to sleep, hot water and wifi, and to enable us to have a full day off each week we work six five hours shifts each per week. 

Today I worked the split shift. I set my alarm for 8:45 am and quickly get up, dressed and have breakfast. Today I whipped up some tofu scramble and ate it with with toast from the bread I made yesterday. At 9:30 am it’s time to take our two dogs, Addy and Chacha, on their morning walk or to do the cat rooms. Today I’m on cats whilst my fellow volunteer (and husband!) Nick takes the dogs out. There are three cat rooms here at the shelter and each morning we feed the three toothless cats, Nikki, Charlie, and Tom some wet food before setting about the rest of the tasks. Tom’s on medication at the moment so I carefully sprinkle some into his food. We always stick around to watch the toothless cats eat, if another cat stole their food it’d mean they got nothing to eat until lunch time at 4pm. In each room I open the window that leads to their outdoor window box area, refill the dry food bowls, change the water in the water bowls, scoop cat litter, vacuum, wipe all of the surfaces with bleach water, collect and clean any bowls left over from dinner last night, change all of the dirty bedding, and, most importantly, I check that all of that cats are okay.

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Nikki, one of our toothless cats struggles to clean herself so after breakfast I give her mouth a wipe with a damp cloth. Next it’s eye drop time! Simon has allergies and Charlie has been having some eye issues due to old age so we need to give them eye drops to keep them well, they really don’t enjoy it though and I give them plenty of strokes afterwards. 

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After all of the cats are done with breakfast and all of their rooms are claen I check the shift board to see what my next task is. We all pitch in to clean the kitchen, bathroom and toilet as well as doing the laundry. Today I’m in charge of making the kitchen sparkle! 

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I do any washing up that’s been left out, dry and put away all of the pots, mugs and dishes on the draining rack and then give everything a spray and a wipe down with kitchen cleaner. Next it’s time for the worst part, emptying the drain trap. Kinda gross but it’s got to be done! Lastly I give the floor a vacuum and my work in the kitchen is done.

It’s almost midday now and the last of my morning tasks, is a spot of cat socialising. We spend at least 30 minutes actively socialising with each cat room on each shift. This is on top of the time we spend in there reading, Skypeing our friends and families back home and petting the kitties. Active socialising is the time that we play with our more energetic cats, coax the scared kitties towards us with treats and give the cats a good brush if needed. It’s a highlight of my morning and it definitely doesn’t feel like work! This morning I’m in Room B with our more frightened cats. In room B we keep our voices low, move slowly and try to make headway with our goal of getting these sweet, timid cats socialised. In the last four weeks we’ve made a lot of progress, this is Sara. She dtill doesn't like to be touched but she no longer runs away as long as you aproach her slowly.

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Working the split shift means that I have a nice long break in the middle of the day. Today I cycled to the supermarket and then after making lunch (okonomiyaki, yum!) I spent the afternoon reading, cuddling the dogs and baking a ginger cake which, if I do say so myself, was delicious. The second half of the split shift starts with another round of cat socialising. This time I’m in Room C which is a whole different ballgame to Room B. The cats in room C are incredibly friendly, Simon cuddles up to me for lots of under-chin scratches as soon as I enter the room and I spend a full half an hour playing with Chibi and Tart. They have boundless energy and will chase a toy for as long as I keep moving it! 

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Eight O’clock arrives in a flash and I’m working with the cats again. Time to get them fed! I start with Room C, they’re very low maintenance at dinner time and they eat fast. It’s also time to scoop litter again, change the water bowls for a second time and to close the windows - the cats love to sit outside but it’s too cold at night up here in the mountains for the windows to be left open. Room B is next and I take the time to make sure Tom and Charlie are eating before completing my cleaning checklist and repeating the process in Room A. By 9pm once the cats bowls are washed I’m usually pretty tired so dinner was some inari tofu and edamame from 7/eleven before settling down to write this post. We had a quick shelter meeting at 9:30 to discuss anything that cropped up during our shifts and now it’s time for sleep so that I’m ready to do it all again tomorrow!

Author: Amazing Jcn Shelter Volunteer

Cat cuddler , Addy/Chacha's doggie tour guide, and JCN news reporter

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