Giving Thanks to Vet Clinics and Shelters: The Best (and Worst) Holiday Gifts to Give

Shelter kittens in crate
Animal shelters appreciate getting towels, bedding and toys.

It takes a special kind of person to work with homeless or sick animals. And while there's never awrong time of year to show your appreciation for all they do, the holiday season is an excellent opportunity to give your favorite animal rescue or vet clinic a little something special.

But what exactly should you give? And what gifts should you avoid? If you want to make this holiday season sparkle for a shelter or vet clinic near and dear to your heart, we have tips to help you do just that.

For Your Favorite Animal Rescue

Monetary donations:"A lot of shelters really look forward to the holiday time because not only do we find loving homes for so many homeless animals, but it’s also a time when people give," says Sylvia Ottaka,senior director of operations for North Shore Animal League America (NSALA). And when it comes to giving, the most helpful gift might also be the most obvious. "Honestly, the number-one thing is monetary donations," Ottaka says, "because shelters can’t do what they do without those types of donations."

Shopping and wish lists:Many shelters and rescues also have ways for you to put your money to work in specific ways. For example, NSALA has a whole page dedicated to outlets through which you can shop and have a portion of proceeds benefit their organization. You might want to contact your local shelter and ask if they have something similar or if perhaps they have a shopping wish list of items they need at or another retailer. (And hey, if they don't, maybe you could offer to help create one for them!)

Sponsored pets:Another way to put your money directly to work is by sponsoring a pet. Some organizations make it easy to sponsor individual animals. NSALA hasa list of animals with lifelong medical conditions who can be sponsored, as well as a "Help Me Heal" program that allows your donation to help rescue an animal requiring urgent medical care. If the shelter or rescue you'd like to help doesn't have this information available online, ask them if they have a sponsorship program or if there's a specific animal whose life you could improve with your donation. You could also consider keeping the gift going as a monthly donation.

Blankets, bedding and toys:Prefer the idea of delivering a gift to the shelter yourself? There are plenty of items that most shelters could always use."There’s always a need for towels, for blankets, for different-sized bedding — you’d be surprised how much bedding we go through, from rambunctious puppies chewing on it to senior dogs having accidents — and of course, toys," Ottaka says. Quality toys can help enrich shelter animals' lives, she adds. It's preferable to donate new items, but clean, gently used bedding and toys are OK.

Gifts to avoid:"Many times people want to do something special and they’ll bake homemade goods for the animals," says Ottaka. While this is incredibly thoughtful, it's not a great option as giving the animals a rich, unusual treat can cause stomach upset and some animals might be on special diets. Some shelters may also have policies against taking baked goods for pets because they don't know what's in them.

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