Seattle Area Feline Rescue
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Volunteer Handbook

If you are interested in any of our current volunteer jobs, fill out our volunteer application. Our Volunteer Coordinator will contact you as soon as possible.

If you have any questions, please email

Welcome, and thank you for volunteering your time at Seattle Area Feline Rescue!  We could not function without our volunteers, and this is an introduction to our procedures and policies.

To be prepared for your first day, you should begin by reading this handbook.

Parking: If you do not own a car, there are several bus lines that run up and down Aurora. If you do drive to the rescue please park in the back of the building so that the spaces in the front can be used by customers.

What to wear: Because we work with a lot of cat-related debris and bleach it is best not to wear clothes you are overly fond of, because they may get ruined. In addition to this, kitties have sharp toe nails, so it is important to wear shirts and pants that are not easily torn. Please wear pants that adequately cover your legs as well as closed toed shoes. Also, while we appreciate your freedom of self- expression, cat toenails can also be detrimental to body art. Facial piercings are easily ripped out, and tattoos can be scratched and ruined.

A simple request:  This is a volunteer position, and we understand that you are giving your free time willingly, however, we strive to maintain a professional work environment. Our expectation is that you treat this position as you would treat any job.

Scheduling volunteer time: This professional work environment includes scheduling yourself on our online scheduler. Please schedule yourself online as soon as you know you are able to come in. Once you have done so, we will expect you to show up on time and ready to work. We need at least a 24 hour notice if you are unable to come, so that we able to find someone to replace you. If you are unable to provide 24 hour notice due to an emergency, please call 206-659-6220 as soon as possible.

Sanitation is key.  You must repeatedly sanitize your hands by washing them with soap and water. This must be done between handling cats or else we risk transmitting an infection from cage to cage. Expect to wash your hands often–it is absolutely necessary to prevent transmission of disease.

There are also hand sanitizer pump bottles located around the store, but these are for customers only.

A quick word on safety:  please be gentle and cautious when you work with any of the creatures in the rescue.  All animals are equipped with defense mechanisms, and if they feel threatened, they will use them. Watch for teeth and claws, and always use your best judgment.


1.  Where to Find the Cats

At Seattle Area Feline Rescue, cats are located in one of four areas. These are the Kitten adoption area, Cat adoption area, Isolation room and Quarantine room.

Kitten Area

This area is located on the east side of the main room, we keep adult cats and kittens separate because kittens don’t have developed immune systems, and can be in danger of contracting illnesses from adult cats.

Adult Area

The adult area is located on the west side of the main room. The enclosures are the same as those in the Kitten Area.


The isolation room is where cats that may be infected with various illnesses are kept. This room is meant to keep them not only isolated from the main population, but to be a quiet place where they can recover from whatever they are sick from.


Cats that are new to the Rescue that are healthy but not yet available for adoption, will be kept in the quarantine room. This is where they stay while they are being made ready for adoption.

2.  Basic Cat Care at Seattle Area Feline Rescue:

Cats need fresh dishes and litter boxes every day.  Each cage should have these three items, along with any soiled bedding or toys removed and replaced.  The first thing you will do will be to prepare the clean items for the room you are working in.  The second step will be to clean each individual cage by removing dirty items and replacing them with clean.

Step 1. Preparing clean items.

Clean dishes, litter boxes and bedding are all located in the cabinets in each housing area. Pull out the appropriate number of litter boxes, food and water dishes for each enclosure.

As you are going through the adult enclosures, note that each cat has a clipboard and a cover sheet. Underneath the cover sheet should be a “daily checklist” that will need to be filled out every day. This is how we monitor whether or not cats are eating, drinking, litter box habits and illness.

Litter boxes

SAFe Rescue uses paper pellet litter, and it is completely changed out every day.  When you fill the litter pan, use only a very small layer of litter.  It expands to 5 times its size after being used, so all you need is barely enough to cover the bottom. Fill the number of litter pans needed and stack them on the counter.


Water needs to be replaced every day. Use one scoop of l-lysine (located in tub in cabinet) per bowl and refill with fresh cold tap water


Food bowls should be left empty until each individual cage is cleaned.

Step 2. Removing dirty items from cages.

Now that the clean items are prepped, it is time to clean the dirty items out of each cage. Ideally, there should be no contact with the cat while you are pulling dirty items.  Pick one hand to be your dirty hand (that holds litter boxes) and one hand to be the clean hand (that opens doors).

First take note of the signs on the door. The adoptable cat cages should only have signs pertaining to an individual cat or special diet. In the Isolation or Quarantine rooms  if it says Feral/Will Strike, let a staff member know if you are not yet trained to handle this cage–you don’t need to do it, but it still needs to get done.  This is the same if there are medications that need to be administered: you don’t need to do it yourself if you are not yet trained or don’t feel comfortable with a particular animal, but please ensure that it is seen to by a senior volunteer or staff member.

Open the door(s) cautiously, to make sure the cats don’t jump out in excitement.  With your “dirty hand” pull out the litter box from the litter box cubby (in all cages except quarantine) and check the stools for diarrhea or blood and report to a staff member if you see anything of that nature.  We might want a stool sample, so don’t dispose of that litter until you’ve checked up.  If it’s free of such stools, dump the used litter into the garbage can. Avoid touching the litter box to the sides of the garbage can to prevent spreading germs. Then place empty dirty litter boxes on the rolling tray. Then pull water dishes and place them on the dish tub on the rolling cart.

Step 3: Replacing clean items and filling food bowls.

You will now go through each individual cage to spot clean. If the cats have made a huge mess, you may want to place the cat temporarily in a holding crate until their main enclosure has been cleaned.

Open the door and greet the cat, making sure you do not touch your body to the cat or any soiled bedding. If their towel or bedding looks or smells soiled, pull it out and put it in the appropriate dirty laundry bin.

To clean the enclosures out, use a paper towel or a brush to remove anything from the bottom, paying close attention to the edges. If you need to, use a damp or wet paper towel to remove any set in stains or spots. You may use detergent (located on the cleaning cart) sprayed on a paper towel to clean particularly dirty cats.

You can now replace water bowl and litter box into their appropriate places.


We feed all of our cats, other than those with special dietary needs, Merrick Purrfect Bistro kibble.  It has a high enough protein content that it is suitable for cats and kittens alike.  The regular cat kibble is located in bins in each housing area.

We try not to waste food, so food bowls only need to be refilled if they are empty. Make existing food  as clean as you can by removing damp food or litter bits and depositing these in the garbage.  Transfer the remaining food into a clean bowl and mix in some fresh dry kibble.  If the kibble is wet or obviously soiled, throw it away.

Adult cats need no more than one scoop of dry food per day and giving them this amount allows us to monitor how much they are eating, while ensuring the cats don’t become overweight.  There is a small measuring cup to be used for depositing the correct amount–give one scoop of food per adult cat in the enclosure you’re working on.

Kittens & cats under a year old, however, should be given as much food as they desire.  If you see an enclosure with multiple young kitties that is completely out of food or water, please refill those bowls and even give them an extra bowl of whatever they need.

Special diets

Be sure to check the clipboard on the enclosure for signs that indicate special diets.  It is extremely important that the kitties get the food and nutrients they need, and if you don’t know exactly what food to give, just let a senior volunteer or staff member know and we’ll get it taken care of.

If a cat is on a special diet, that dry kibble food is located in a small bin in the cabinet of each enclosure.

If a diet calls for wet food, check to make sure you are giving the right kind of wet food, and store any unused canned food with a lid in the refrigerator in the prep room

Please Note: By law, all food containers need to be covered at all times.

If you find yourself with some spare time towards the end of the day, please find the pitcher in the kitchen, fill it with 3 teaspoons of L-Lysine and clean cold tap water, and go around refilling all of the cats’ water dishes.  Kitties can never have too much access to water!  Be sure not to handle the cats while you do this, to avoid transmitting anything.  Cats need to be watered at the end of the day before closing.

Step 4. Cleaning dirty items.

This should be the last thing that is done after all of the cages have been cleaned.

To clean litter boxes:  Wipe excess debris from the pan with a paper towel. In the double sink, located in the prep room, first rinse the box out completely. Use dawn dish soap and scrub brush to remove crusted on debris, then rinse with water.  In the second half of the sink, soak litter boxes in bleach solution and allow to sit for 10 minutes.  After the pans sit for 10 minutes you can rinse and set to dry on the countertop .

Water and food bowls should be washed in detergent in one half of the sink, and soaked in bleach solution in the second. They should be rinsed with hot water and placed on the counter to dry.

This is an excerpt regarding proper use of bleach from LCHS:

  Bleach.  A member of the halogen family of disinfectants, which also includes iodine and related products.

     A.       Characteristics.

  1.      A five-percent (5%) Bleach solution diluted at a one-to-thirty-two (1:32) ratio (1/2 cup per gallon of water) completely inactivates Canine parvovirus, Feline calicivirus, and Feline panleukopenia when applied correctly.
    • Most regular household Bleach is five-percent (5%)
    • Bleach inactivates ringworm at higher concentrations and with repeated application
  2. Organic matter [fecal matter and cat litter], light, and extended storage significantly reduces the effectiveness of Bleach.
    •  Bleach will lose potency overnight if left in an open-air or open-light container.
    • Hard water also reduces the effectiveness of Bleach.
  3. The one-to-thirty-two (1:32) Bleach has low tissue toxicity, but fumes can be irritating at high concentration, and Bleach is corrosive to metal if left on metal surfaces for long periods.
  4.  Bleach alone has NO detergent action, and cannot be used as a sole cleaning agent.
    • Disinfection with Bleach requires prior cleaning of the surface with soap.

What to take from this?

Bleach is an invaluable resource for the shelter, but it should not be the only method of cleaning. Any surface that has been in contact with organic material (poop or litter) or any contact with a cat first needs to be washed with soap and water. Once it is visibly clean, it can be disinfected with the bleach solution.

What to do if a cat gets out

Whenever you open the doors to the rooms or any enclosure, watch for cats that might feel like bolting.  If a cat gets out and starts to run from you, stay calm and clearly call out to the front of the store “Cat Out!” so that we can quickly make sure the front door is shut and work together to return the kitty home.  Do not attempt to catch the cat yourself as he or she will be terrified and may scratch or bite–get an experienced staff member.  Follow the cat with your eyes at all times.


If you are working with a cat and feel that he or she is in need of some medical attention, please let us know.  Look for signs such as sneezing, coughing, hacking or furballs, swollen, red, or crusty eyes/nostrils, bloody stools or excessive vomit, and the spirit or lethargy of the cat in question.  Notify a staff member directly of your concerns.

Sterilizing Crates

First disassemble the larger crates by unscrewing or unsnapping them, and separate them into the three components: top, bottom, and door. Collect the crate screws and return them to the crate screw container.  Spray and scrub the crate parts thoroughly in the bathing tub until they are completely free of stains and litter dust, using scrub brush and detergent to thoroughly clean. Next, saturate the crates inside and out with bleach water and leave them to sanitize for 10 minutes–use this time to tidy, sweep the floors, and complete other small tasks. Return to the tub and rinse the crates thoroughly, paying close attention to the seams and edges. Crates can be dried with towel or placed on counter to dry. Once dry, they are returned to their appropriate storage areas.

Conclusion and Basic Guidelines

When you volunteer at Seattle Area Feline Rescue, we encourage you to take initiative: see what needs doing and get it done, but always feel free to ask questions if you’re not sure about the correct procedure.

What to do when you think there is nothing to do:

● Check the food, water, cleanliness, and basic necessities of all the animals in the adoption center and double check them throughout the day. Animals often need their water refilled, especially during the hotter summer months.

● Check to see if a staff member on duty needs an errand or a specific task done.

● Sweep every floor and surface that needs it, and please do this often.  Move things out of the way and sweep under them as well.

● Wash & put away the dishes and look around for anything that could use cleaning.

● Refill all the spray bottles.  Completely empty the bleach bottles, carefully pour enough bleach into them to cover the bottom of the bottle, and fill to the top with cool tap water.

● Empty all of the small garbage cans into the large one in and clean and dry the cans themselves.

● Take out the garbage and recycling.

● Empty and clean out all of the sinks.

● Wash and sterilize crates, scrub down the exam room sink.

● Wash, sterilize, and reassemble syringes, and place them into the drawer under the scale in the Exam Room.

● Groom/brush the cats.

You may wear a volunteer t-shirt or polo while you work at Seattle Area Feline Rescue.  Remember to put the shirt into the dirty laundry bag when you are done.

Again, we’d like to thank you for all that you do for these special creatures!