Let’s face it- the holiday season is BUSY. We’re traveling, we’re frantically searching for perfect casserole recipes to bring to family dinners, we’re standing in lines to snag the best deals, we’re tearing through our closets because we just know we have snow pants in there somewhere, we’re trying to figure out how our parents made tying a tree to the top of the car look so effortless…it can be a bit overwhelming. Even the most dedicated animal lovers can get distracted by pumpkin patches and Christmas lights. However, there are still countless animals out there in need of our help. Whether you’re low on time or money, you can always do something. Here are some quick ways you can make sure our furry and feathered friends aren’t forgotten!
Give Non-Profits A Publicity Boost!
You’ve no doubt heard or noticed that social media algorithms are making it increasingly difficult to be seen. Facebook and Instagram are constantly changing the rules, but the general principle is: the more engagement (likes and comments) on a post, the more people will see it. This makes it really tricky for smaller organizations to gain the visibility they deserve. Next time you have a few minutes to fill, rather than scrolling through your everyday newsfeed, look for posts from your favorite animal advocacy groups and give them a boost! Likes are good, but comments are better- especially those with three or more words (emojis don’t count!).
Use Your “Amazon Smile” Account!
I’m just going to assume most of you will be making an Amazon purchase or two this season…why not help animals while you’re at it? Just head over to Amazon Smile, select your preferred non-profit, and that organization will receive 0.5% of all your purchases! It may not sound like a lot, but it adds up. Once you’re done, make sure to add Amazon Smile to your favorites bar and always shop through that tab; if you don’t start from there, your purchases won’t be counted (which is mine are so low…I only discovered this recently)! Amazon Smile doesn’t work on mobile apps yet, so you’ll have to make purchases through your laptop/desktop.
Make Winter More Bearable For Wildlife
Yes, wild animals evolved to survive the environments in which they live, but they still struggle. Humans wiping out natural habitats and food sources don’t make things any easier. Still, we can undo some of our damage by providing a few extra resources.
- Frequently put out shallow water bowls. Even when the temperatures cool, animals still get dehydrated. In my yard, I frequently see squirrels and birds stopping by for a much needed sip from our pond or bird baths. Right this minute you can help by filling a wide Tupperware container or casserole dish and placing it near the trees or bushes inhabited by your local animals. Check dishes frequently to make sure the water is clean!
- If you want to step up your assistance over the winter, invest in a heated birdbath! Yes, even when it’s below freezing, animals are still thirsty and have a hard time finding drinkable water. This is the one we have and it works beautifully, but we’re also adding one of these closer to the squirrel hangout.
- Leave snacks (but not too many)! Fall is a time for squirrels to obsessively gather food to store for winter. Help them out by leaving some nuts! I like to scatter them throughout the yard when they aren’t looking, so they don’t start expecting me to hand them out (I learned this the hard way…you don’t want to have impatient squirrels waiting every time you walk out the door). Nuts in the shell are best, for two reasons. One, it helps them resist the temptation to eat them all in the moment, leaving nothing for leaner months. And two, it’s better for their teeth to have something to gnaw on! Depending on your location, they can be tricky to find in stores, but you can order nuts in the shell online here.
- Finally, DRIVE SLOWLY around neighborhoods and don’t text! This is the busiest time of year for squirrels to be running back and forth across roads, searching for the perfect hiding spot for their scavenged food. A glance at your phone could be catastrophic for them.
Keep Homeless Pets In Mind
You wouldn’t expect the holidays to be a dismal time for shelter pets, but they certainly can be. Families or individuals that have been considering giving up their pets tend to do so before traveling, because they don’t want to deal with the inconvenience. Similarly, it’s not always an ideal time to adopt a pet, especially for people who will be traveling a lot. High intake numbers and low adoption rates lead to overcrowded city shelters. Fortunately, there are many ways to help!
- Visit your local shelter to take photographs. Most shelter intake photos are horrible, and don’t give the animals a great shot at adoption. It’s not necessarily because staff doesn’t care; they may be overworked, have outdated equipment, or not have been properly trained. You don’t have to be a professional photographer to make a difference; a camera phone photo will help! Make sure to take photos of the kennel cards or other identifying information too, so when you upload them later, you’ll know which animal is which. Share the album on social media, send it to a local rescue advocacy page, or even send it to the shelter! Sometimes they’ll swap out their bad photo for your good one. Potential adopters usually start their search on the internet, so a compelling image can make all the difference.
- Send or deliver blankets! I know from experience that nothing changes my chihuahuas’ days like having a cozy blanket to wrap up in. Many shelters in “warmer” climates have outdoor kennels, which means animals are outside even on chilly winter nights.
In the past, I’ve purchased this bulk pack and we’ve been impressed with the quality for the price. Check your local shelter, many have donation mailing addresses listed on their websites. With just a couple clicks, you can send warmth and comfort to some shelter pets while they await their forever homes!
- Foster!! Okay, I know this doesn’t really fall into the “simple” category, but it’s so important. If you’re staying in town over the holidays, you can save a life by opening your home to a shelter pet in need. Reach out to some local independent rescue groups (you can search for them on PetFinder here) and apply to foster. Often, this means the rescue group can go straight to the city shelter, take out a pet at risk for euthanasia, and send him/her home with you until a forever family is found! All you have to do is provide love and safety.
- Donate food or supplies to the Pets of the Homeless. This organization does incredible work for animals living on the streets with their humans. While we may have a wide array of opinions about whether or not those animals should be in that situation, the reality is they’re there. And they’re hungry. Many cities have drop off sites where you can leave food, treats, and other pet supplies; you can look for yours here. Of course, you can also send a monetary donation online to help the organization provide medical care and other resources to these pets without many other options.
Obviously this list is just a start- there are countless ways we can make an impact every day! Hopefully this gave you enough information to take at least one action. Feel free to leave more suggestions in the comments! Thanks for caring!