How to volunteer or foster with Long Beach pet rescues

“It’s important to do something for other people and not necessarily do it for yourself,” said Emily, who volunteers with her mother, Linda, for Helen Sanders CatPAWS rescue. “Even if it doesn’t come with compensation, volunteering is still doing things for people that need to be taken care of.”

Volunteering for something individually meaningful actually does have compensation in the daily satisfaction of knowing that you’ve contributed to the general good. Volunteering makes you “a somebody,” meaning the somebody that everyone keeps saying should do something about something and actually does it. Volunteers like Emily and Linda are grateful that the cats in their care get, as Emily said, “the lives they deserve.” Playing with kittens is, of course, the sugar in the cookie and the fur on the black slacks.

Because this is The Scratching Post, we’re going to encourage volunteering for animal rescues and shelters. Because we’re at the gateway to Halloween, it’ll be all cats, and every one is magickal no matter the color, stripe or pattern. Because Helen Sanders CatPAWS rescue has a bazillion ways you can volunteer to help save and better the lives of cats, they get the laser-toy spotlight.

So many cats, so many different needs, so many ways to fulfill them

CatPAWS cats can be as young as newborn or so old that their whiskers have whiskers. They can be teenagers, young adults, or middle aged. They’re leg climbers, ankle rubbers and lap sitters. Some have been parents, but each has been spayed or neutered so that more unwanted babies won’t be born. Some have medical conditions that are curable, treatable, manageable or terminal. CatPAWS volunteers take the responsibility of running them to veterinarians for medical appointments, purchase food and toys, and shuttle them back and forth from foster home to event.

five kittens curled up on blue-print blanket. Various splotches of gray, gray and white.

CatPAWS volunteers assemble DIY bottle-feeding kits for Long Beach Animal Care Services to give to people willing to raise kittens they’ve found. Here’s an excerpt from a converted kitten caregiver: “I wanted to thank you for the Kitten Care Kit I picked up at the LB Animal Shelter. It truly was a lifesaver. I found the 4 kittens at my work, we waited 2 days for Mom but she was not around. I had never fostered kittens before, but all the Rescues were full and the Shelter wasn’t an option, so I went and picked up a care kit and brought them home. What a wild ride!  Exhausting syringe feeding then bottle feeding, around the clock for 4 of them. Thank goodness I had 2 great helpers, my 18 and 21 year olds. It was such an amazing experience watching them learn and grow. Happy to report that they are now all in great homes, including 1 Foster Fail we have welcomed into our family.” Photo courtesy of Helen Sanders CatPAWS


CatPAWS publishes Show Us Your Kitties, a yearly calendar of community pet cats. Entrants and friends can buy votes to vie for cover kitty, and all funds provided by the votes and calendar sales go toward expenses that medical procedures and feeding incur. The rescue has taken part in the monthly drive-thru pet pantry at OC Animal Care and participates twice a month in what volunteer Mitch Cohen has dubbed The Traveling Feline Comfort and Therapy Show. Twice monthly, volunteers take kittens to retirement homes where older adult residents can cuddle them or dangle wand toys as they prance around in a playpen.

Enclosed play areas at retirement homes avoid the proverbial showdown between rocking chair and tail. Video by Kate Karp.

Medical fosters get comfort, care

The best thing that anyone can do for any cat not living in a home is to give them one, albeit temporary. It helps to socialize them and get them ready for the day when they’ll go to one of their own, which is any rescue’s ultimate raison d’etre. It also helps a crowded shelter or overburdened rescues. The majority of cats and kittens under CatPAWS care live with fosters who care for them as if they were their own. Sometimes, it turns out this way—it happens to the best of us.

Some of the cats are medical fosters. CatPAWS covers all vet bills and medicines and pays for the food as well. If the illness is severe or if the cat is of extreme age, the cat may stay with the caregiver until the end of its life. The ones that heal as best as possible can be adopted, particularly if the disease is cured or curable.

Chinchilla is one such cat. She was pulled from Long Beach Animal Care Services, afflicted with cryptococcus, “a particularly nasty fungal infection,” as described by CatPAWS volunteer Deborah Felin-Magaldi. Cryptococcus is contracted by inhaling toxic organisms, many of them found in pigeon feces. If not treated, the disease can spread to the brain, with fatal results—another excellent reason to keep your cat indoors, by the way.

“Fluid-filled masses developed on Chinchilla’s chin and face and side,” Felin-Magaldi said. “She was so friendly, the staff at LBACS advocated for her to get her out. We were able to save her because of a wonderful couple who committed to months and months of treatment.”

The disease was beyond the capacity of the shelter to treat, so CatPAWS volunteers Mei and Mark took her in. They didn’t want her to die in the shelter. They had previously fostered medical cats and had found another who turned out to have a heart condition. They jumped at the chance to help another one.

“It was a no-brainer for my husband when I asked him,” Mei said. “We know that there’s no better way to grieve and to heal than to give another cat a chance at life.” The couple had recently lost their beloved 23-year-old “matriarch.” Happily, Chinchilla healed, too, quite literally.

Mei said that she and her husband don’t see medical fosters as extra burdens; in fact, she described doing it as “an opportunity to learn all these new life skills that we didn’t know we had.”

“It’s one of the most fulfilling things you’ll do, and CatPAWS supports you from start to finish,” she said. “You’ll be providing for a cat in a way that most shelters cannot.”

If Chinchilla appeals to you, make the adoption move now, as Mei said that she and Mark are on the verge of foster-fail (see Virtually pets).

Adoption: the end purr-puss

Giving people the opportunity to meet pets in furson is the best way to get them adopted. People can hold and cuddle the soft bodies, play with them, and check out the personalities to see if they’re lap kitties or nighttime zoomers who’ll wake them up repeatedly—and whether that will be a problem. Some of the CatPAWS cats make daily appearances in kennels in the Seal Beach PetSmart. People can admire them through the windows and come in Saturdays from noon to 3 p.m. to have a kitty fest inside the play area. A monthly afternoon session also takes place at the Petco in the Marina Shores shopping center from 1 to 3 p.m. Trained volunteers discuss the adoption process in both locations.

These events and the cats in particular lured Linda and Emily into volunteering. Linda had previously adopted cats from CatPAWS and was impressed by how well adjusted they were, even for cats.

“They were good with noises, they were good with people. They were nonreactive to noise, and they got along with the family cats,” she said.

It occurred to Linda how satisfying it would be to be part of that process, so she applied to volunteer. Her daughter Emily joined her later.

“My sister worked in PetSmart, and I found it fascinating that the cats in the kennels were saved from a lot of worse fates,” she said.

Emily likes the flexible schedule that CatPAWS offers for kennel volunteers. She and Linda have an immediate bond with every kitty in the kennels. They instinctively know who’s the alpha cat, who’s a door dasher, and whose personality is likely to blossom if they get away from the bossypants kitten and get their own home and space. Linda also understands that the different personalities and behaviors of cats and kittens must fit the wants and needs of adopters, and she loves getting to know those personalities.

“Are they looking for a cat that’s a little feisty for company, do they want one that just wants to be on their lap all day and won’t wake them up in the middle of the night to play, do they want a cat as a friend for a cat at home?” she said. “It’s important to make sure that every kitten life out there can be saved, and it’s really great if each cat can get the home they deserve. I’ve grown up with cats as long as I can remember. They’ve been there for me, so I want to be there for them.”

As President John F. Kennedy said, ““One person can make a difference, and everyone should try.” As Felin-Magaldi said, Our dedicated volunteers are a critical link in the journey from helpless to home. Without fosters and volunteers, those cats will languish in cages and some will die. It is that simple.”

Helen Sanders CatPAWS needs volunteers, but they need fosters even more to save as many lives as they can. Without foster homes, we cannot take the many at-risk—some on euthanasia lists—cats and kittens about whom we are notified every day by various public shelters.” If you have room in your home for one or more cats or kittens, please complete the application here.

Donate here to help with medical expenses, spay and neuter and feeding little pink mouths.

Virtually pets

 The end process of  rescuing, healing, socializing and showing them off is, of course, adoption to good, furever homes. Fill out the adoption application for any of these magical creatures or the ones on the adoption page.

Pretty torti-tabby with white chest lies on soft, white blanket with ears aloft. There's a rose pattern in background.

Chinchilla’s fosters, Mei and Mark, said that they’re amazed at her progress. They don’t know what she went through on the street, but her personality belies any sort of trauma there. The fosters patiently spent three months with her as she healed, and now, she’s ready to go home. As we said, better make a run for it, because we see another foster-fail—success. really—in the future for this lovely girl.


Volunteer Linda shows off the diverse personalities of Cinnamon, Sweetpea and Wintergreen. Sweetpea shows excellent taste in volunteers.


Things that go bump in the night (no fear—it’s Fluffy knocking the phone off the nightstand again)

Haute Dog Howl'oween

This bulldog decided to go as a wiener dog in Haute Dogs’ Howl’oween Parade. His poodle-mix friend provided the ultimate condiment. Photo by Bill Alkofer


Howloween Hoedown: 4–9 p.m, Saturday, Oct. 23, Sparky and the Gang Animal Rescue, 1749 Magnolia Ave., Long Beach, suggested $25 donation

Bring your doggies, bring yourself, and have a great time in hounds of Hellish fashion!

Vegan goodies—sorry, zombies, but no brains—and a dessert bar, sounds from the great Corday, trick-or-treat (mainly treat) swag bag for you and your costumed pooch, and a live marionette show! What’s scarier than clowns but people dancing on strings into your face! Reserve a table by contacting [email protected].

Haute Dogs Howl’oween Parade: 12:30 p.m. until the last pumpkin drops, Sunday, Oct. 31, Marina Vista Park, 5355 E. Eliot St., Long Beach, registration and seat-purchase information here

Oh boy! The world’s largest Halloween pet event, according to those in the know, is back—and it’s on the actual Halloween, yet! There are all kinds of prizes for humans and dogs (you can probably get by dressing up a cat or a pig) along with an adoption fair, a vendor fair and of course, the parade, in which over 450 dogs, including floats, are expected to participate! Spectators are welcome—you can bring your own chair and watch for free or reserve one for $10. This event also has the world’s largest set of details, so please click the link above for all of them. Note: Haute Dogs’ policy is to treat people with honor, dignity and respect regardless of their beliefs, gender, age, race, creed, sexual orientation, special needs and ethnicity. In this respect, no Native American costumes will be permitted.

Just fur fun and fur-ther education

Young man plays six white drums as several cats look on.

Sound-healer Santiago Rodriguez plays some pet sounds as the cats try to be cool about it. Courtesy of Feline Good Social Club


Sound Healing fundraising event: 4 a.m.–6 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 9, Nov, 9, Dec. 4, Feline Good Social Club, 301 Atlantic Ave., Long Beach, $30 per person, purchase tickets here

Bring your yoga mat, blanket, pillow, water bottle and anything else you need to keep you comfy and experience the healing effects of the sounds and vibrations of tonal instruments as cats wander around, over and on you. You can adopt one of these kitties and experience daily the best sound healing ever—purring. Wear comfortable clothing; masks are mandatory for humans.

Best Friends’ Strut Your Mutt fundraising event: details and events here

Ready to start building a team or just strut your stuff solo? Best Friends, a nationwide organization whose intent is to save every animal life possible, has started its registration for its Oct. 23 Strut Your Mutt Day virtual walk. The goal is to raise $2 million for both the organization and animal shelters and rescues nationwide. Access this link for instructions on how to build your team or register yourself, and participate in virtual events such as pig yoga and meeting the animals at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary as you move along the time line. Mutts and all manner of mammals will thank you!

Comedy and Cats: 8–9 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 15, Feline Good Social Club, 301 Atlantic Ave., Long Beach,, $25, reserve your seat here.

Here we go again! The Salty AF crew of comedians and the Lounge cats will wrestle for the microphone and spotlight in which the only competitive element is who’s funnier, cats or comics. The group cannot wait for another bout with the kitties.

Calendars: 365 days of furry love

2022 Seal Beach Animal Care Center Calendar Contest: entries and votes accepted through 11:59 p.m., Oct 22, enter here

Only $1 needed to enter your cat or dog into SBACC’s contest! Votes start at $1 (5 vote minimum). You enter and vote for your best friend and then encourage your family and friends to cast votes for them. People can vote as many times as they want! Two separate calendars, one for the cats and one for the dogs, will feature your pets, and the top 13 dogs and top 13 cats (with the most votes) will be showcased in the calendars, with the first-place of each species as the cover guy or grrrrl. Thumbnail photos of all entrants will be featured in the calendars, even if the pets are not in the top 13!

Help wanted, help given

Volunteers of many stripes needed at Helen Sanders CatPAWS

Want to spend a few hours playing with cats? How about brightening the day of a bunch of senior citizens with kitten visits? Fostering cats because you aren’t sure you want to keep one but wish you could have one ever so briefly in your life (and yes, you could change your mind and keep them forever). Delivering pet food to needy shelters? Assembling do-it-yourself newborn-kitten-care kits, and maybe bottle-feeding a few? Kennel cleaning (whee!)? Lend a paw to CatPAWS—fill out the volunteer application at this link.

Volunteer walkers needed for senior citizens’ dogs

Ida’s Walkers is a program of The Heart of Ida, a 501c3 nonprofit organization serving the older-adult population in and around Long Beach. Ida’s Walkers offers dog-walking services to low-to-moderate-income seniors who are hospitalized, have limited mobility, or are at risk of falling. If you want to help senior citizens keep their beloved pets as long as they are able to live at home, call 562-370-3548.

Fix Long Beach low-cost pet-services clinics: selected days and times, 1749 Magnolia Ave., Long Beach, services available by appointment at

Fix Long Beach is taking appointments for low-cost spay/neuter, dental, vaccines and other vet needs for cats and dogs. Vaccination clinics take place on the second and fourth Thursday of each month. Visit their webpage or Facebook page for details.

DIY Kitten Care Kits available free at Long Beach Animal Care Services

Kitten season is still in bloom, and shelters and rescues are scrambling to save little lives, get them fixed, get them adopted. It isn’t unusual to find nests of young, seemingly abandoned kittens during kitten season. It is a natural reaction to want to help, to save them. If you are interested in obtaining a Kitten Care Kit made possible by Helen Sanders CatPAWS, please email [email protected].

Spay/neuter vouchers available at shelter

Long Beach Animal Care Services has spay/neuter vouchers available. They’ll take a healthy nip out of the cost of a procedure. Residents of any of the five cities served by the shelter can telephone the general number at 562-570–7387 to request a voucher.

 Spay/neuter appointments available at SNP/LA

The Spay/Neuter Project of Los Angeles (SNP/LA) offers free and low-cost spay/neuter services, and they’re extending the hours of their vaccination clinics. The San Pedro clinic will give shots between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m. every third Thursday at 957 N. Gaffey St. Call 310-574–5555 to see if you qualify for services.

If you can see the bottom of the kibble bag

Pets of the Homeless’s home page gives a self-description as the only organization focusing only on providing food and care for pets belonging to homeless people. Businesses and other organizations across the country receive in-kind donations of food and other needs that the dogs and cats’ human families can pick up at outreach locations. The following Long Beach businesses will accept your donations:

Trendi Pawz, 3726 E. Seventh St., Long Beach

Belmont Heights Animal Hospital, 255 Redondo Ave., Long Beach

Paw Shoppe Pet Center, Inc., 6416 E. Spring St., Long Beach

Food and supplies are available Mondays from 9 a.m. to noon and Saturdays from noon to 3 p.m. at Beacon for Him Ministries, 1535 Gundry Ave. Long Beach; and Thursdays from 9:00 to 11 a.m. at Christian Outreach in Action, 515 E. Third St., Long Beach, Donations will be gratefully accepted at these locations as well.

Adopt, adopt, adopt

In-furson events

White cat with tabby-patch ears and back stares upward, sitting in bowling-pin position in a glassed-in kennel with store products in background

Hopeful kitty resides at Pet Food Express’ adoption center.


Long Beach Animal Care Services’ Adoption Waggin: 10 a.m.–2 p.m., second Saturday of each month, Pet Supplies Plus, 2086 Bellflower Blvd., Long Beach; 10 a.m..–2 p.m., last Saturday of each month, VBurger, 420 Cherry Ave., Long Beach, adoption fees apply

The shelter’s favorite glamping vehicle for cats and dogs has been making the scene twice a month. Adopt at the locations and find either everything you need for your pet or a fine vegan lunch.

Pet Food Express Cat Adoption Center: 10 a.m.–8 p.m. weekdays and Saturdays, and 10 a.m.–7 p.m. .Sundays., Pet Food Express, 4220 Long Beach Blvd., Long Beach, adoption fees apply.

This adoption center is a much-needed satellite operation of Long Beach Animal Care Services. Julie and her team pull adoptable cats—”adoptable,” to these guys, means any cat in a shelter kennel! The team socializes the kitties until they’re adopted, which takes less time than you could imagine!

Helen Sanders CatPAWS adoption centers: viewable daily during store hours, playtime Saturdays and Sundays between noon and 3 p.m., PetSmart, 12341 Seal Beach Blvd., Seal Beach; Petco Marina Shores, 6500 Pacific Coast Highway, third Saturday of every month between 1 and 3 p.m., Long Beach, adoption fees apply.

Window-shopping’s a neat pastime and likely has become more common during the pandemic. Helen Sanders CatPAWS has applied window-shopping to cat adoption; you can peer at several of the fine felines through the windows of the PetSmart adoption center in Seal Beach, and now, you can finally visit with them, scratch their little ears, and rub them under their chinny-chin-chins on Saturdays from noon to 3 p.m. Visitors to Petco  Marina Shores every third Saturday of the month can see them running around their playpens and cuddle them, too. Volunteers will answer questions and provide you with adoption information! Be sure to wear a mask. You can find adoption applications and all the kitties here.

two dogs and a cat on one border, two cats and two dogs on other. Caption says, "May we couch-surf at your place?"

May we couch-surf at your place?

Nota bon-e—fosters are needed everywhere!

If you’ve always wanted a pet but aren’t sure if you’re ready for a lifetime (the animal’s) commitment, or if you’re past the pet-roommate days for any reason, fostering might be a great way to go, especially with one or more of the kittens popping up during kitten season. Every one of the organizations listed below is in desperate need of fosters who’ll social them and help save their little lives. Who knows—maybe one of those lives will change your mind about the not-ready-for-roommate thing!

These nonprofits also regularly feature cat, dog and rabbit adoptions. As of now, adoptions are mainly by appointment. Fosters are needed for kittens as well. Click on the links for each rescue in case of updates or changes. These organizations operate through donations and grants, and anything you can give would be welcome. Please suggest any Long Beach-area rescues to add to the list.


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Kate Karp is the Pets Columnist for the Long Beach Post covering the world of animal activism, pet adoptions and lots of cute cats. She’s called Long Beach home since 1994 and has written for the Post for about 10 years. Kate’s day job is as a copyeditor, which she discovered a love for during her 30-year tenure as a teacher. She describes the job as “like taking the rough edges off a beautiful sculpture.”