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Your Go-To Guide for Helping Animals

Dogs. Cats. Even birds. They’re all pets, and they all need attention and care. If you’re an animal lover looking for ways to help, look no further than this Create the Good guide to helping our furry friends. Check out this list of idea starters, divided into projects that take five minutes, five hours or five days, so you can find one (or more!) that fits right into your schedule. You can help shelter staff, the pets themselves or animals around your neighborhood—and you can even help others get involved.

Five-minute projects:

1. Offer to drop in. If your neighborhood friends are going on vacation, volunteer to stop by periodically to make sure their cat has enough food, water and play. Bonus points for bringing along a little catnip.

2. Go for a walk. The elderly benefit from canine friendship, but they can’t always give their companions the exercise they need. Give some—and get some yourself—by offering to walk your neighbor’s dog. (You can also light up Spot’s day with treats or tennis-ball time in the backyard.)

3. Seek Shelters. Animal rescue centers are constantly in need of extra help. Quick ways to help out include walking dogs and playing with cats. Don’t forget to invite your grand kids and friends—the more, the merrier.

4. Outfit a pet. Put together a foster kit for animals finding new homes—think pet bed, collar, a bag of food, some toys and a leash (if it’s a dog), or kitty litter (if it’s a cat). Drop it off while you’re volunteering at the shelter.

Five-hour projects:

1. Make it a group effort. Find four friends who are animal-friendly, too, then pitch in through all sorts of ways at You can help build small projects, spread bark on walking trails, sort animal toys and food, and even pull weeds or paint.

2. Take the wheel. If you like to drive, consider all the volunteering you can do on the road. Dogs and cats in shelters need trips to and from their vaccination appointments and adoption events. You can even pick up supplies and deliver them to foster homes to keep your furry friends happy.

3. Get on the phone. National organizations often hold fund drives requiring operators to take down donations. Check local and state options as well. When in doubt, call your local shelter and ask if they need help with phone calls.

4. Throw an event. What’s an easy way to make get-togethers even more meaningful? Ask for “admission fees” for a good cause at the door. Next time you have a movie night with grand kids or friends from the neighborhood, see how much you can raise for your local animal shelter. (Bake sales are always good, too.)

Five-day projects:

1. Foster a pet. After spending time at your local shelter, you may find it hard to leave. Why not take a cat or dog home? Even if it’s just for a little while, they’ll appreciate the companionship, not to mention the extra time needed to find a permanent home. You can also search online for animal foster programs. For example, Virginia, D.C. and Maryland residents can check out Homeward Trails.

2. Make a commitment. More than 1,000 animal lovers have donated over 115,000 volunteer hours to Sign up to be a go-to volunteer if you want to help dogs, cats or wildlife through service, outreach and events for a three- to six-month time span.

3. Pick up a camera. Want to put your artistic eye toward creating good? Consider honing your craft as a photographer by becoming your shelter’s resident picture-taker. Good photos that really show an animal’s personality can dramatically cut foster care time, according to Petfinder.

4. Start your own home. Ready to take your commitment to animals to the next level? Consider starting a pet adoption organization of your own, like a shelter or sanctuary. It’s a big task, but it could become the most rewarding one in your life. To get started, check out Petfinder’s tips on starting a pet adoption organization.

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