If you’re interested in a career in conservation (or already in one), you will know that volunteering and work placements are vital. Wildlife conservation, in particular, is very popular now (which is great!) so jobs are few and far between. Volunteering gives you the chance to experience what this sort of work is really like, and narrow down what you see yourself doing in the future.
Having volunteered at several charities so far, I’d really like to start writing about my experiences. I’m starting off with the only organisation I’ve volunteered at where there was actual hands-on work with animals, as I think this is what most people think they want to do.
But first, some general information about volunteering:
- It is hard work! People need volunteers for a reason – it’s usually pretty demanding, either physically or emotionally. Sometimes you’re dealing with sick animals, bad smells and sad stories and that’s all part of your day-to-day.
- You need an open mind. Try not to have too many premonitions about what it’s going to be like; just turn up, keep a smile on your face throughout the day and you’ll feel great when you leave – there’s nothing quite like that feeling of accomplishment – like you’ve made a difference.
- ANY volunteering is amazing, but try to look for small, local organisations who perhaps don’t have as much publicity.
- You don’t have to travel anywhere. Find a charity you’d like to help and reach out to ask what you can do. They may just need someone to keep an eye on their Instagram! You don’t have to stick to the roles they advertise, just approach them and let them know what your skills are; they might be able to use them.
So, onto The Moggery. I have always loved cats. I think I must have been one in a past life. A hug from one of mine or a cute video of a kitten is all I need to make my day, sad as that is! And with the degree I started in September, I fully intend on working with animals in the future. So, I decided to seek out opportunities local to me in that field. A mere 15-minute walk from my house, this was the perfect opportunity to start me off and get a glimpse into rehoming animals. They have been rehabilitating & rehoming Bristolian cats and kittens since 1997, and have prevented 2.7 billion possible births through their spaying and neutering programme. I’m a firm believer that adopting animals is absolutely crucial – a cute, brand new puppy or kitten is, of course, wonderful, but there are so many lovely animals already in the world, sitting in cages waiting for someone to scoop them up and take them home.
It’s by no means glamorous work. General day-to-day activities included emptying litter trays, feeding (sometimes getting a scratch from a grumpy cat), cleaning, and enrichment. The Moggery is run by a lovely lady who converted her old house into this cat rehoming centre, with each of the three floors dedicated to a different group of cats. There aren’t many rules when it comes to volunteering – you can stay for as many hours on as many days as you like – most places are just grateful for any help you can give.
On a side note, I took on a little project of my own while volunteering at The Moggery. Feral cats have been a problem in my home village for many years, so I decided to finally try to do something about it. Several years ago, our Cats Protection got involved and managed to neuter/spay most of the cats, but obviously one evaded capture and repopulated the group back up to about 40 by this year. Aided by The Moggery, I captured tom cats and had them neutered (and put back into the village), and took kittens back to The Moggery to be rehomed. This is an ongoing project, but it has given me real insight as to what this sort of work brings. Unfortunately, I was spurred on to do this when we found a little ginger tom in our garden who hadn’t made it. It was heartbreaking, and a sobering moment because I realised I may be facing that on a daily basis in this career – but avoiding this sort of scenario is exactly why you do it.
My main take away from working at The Moggery is that hands-on work in conservation and animal welfare isn’t just cuddles with cute, furry animals. It’s tough, and takes some getting used to. In comparison with more environment-based organisations I’ve worked for, it’s certainly very different in the sense that you see your work paying off immediately; the gratification is great. But environmental, manual work has its benefits too, which I explore in my posts about ARK and WWT (these can be found under the volunteering tab).