My work with Rational Animal and A Tail at a Time all started with a phone call. I wasn't sure what to expect at first. This was my first time getting an internship and when the voice on the other side answered, I was surprised by the casualness of the conversation. The voice that answered the phone was Courtney Kistler’s, junior board member of Rational Animal and A Tail at a Time volunteer. She helped me get in touch with Susan, the founder of Rational Animal, and got me going with an itinerary for the time I would be able to work. For the first couple weeks I wasn’t sure of the internship, but volunteering with Courtney and A Tail at a Time’s cats up for adoption at the PetSmart on 117th and Pleasant really helped to keep things in perspective. The work I was doing with Susan for Rational Animal was indirectly assisting
the organization to further helping adoptable animals like A Tail at a Time’s. Watching Susan and her board members discuss their future plans and possible campaigns made me realize that running a grass roots animal welfare organization is very similar
An event that very abruptly brought to my attention how widespread animal suffering is in human society was going to a movie screening at Columbia University with Courtney. The films we saw were From Farm to Fridge and Vegucated. I was already a pescatarian before, but the films were so moving that I even bought one of them on DVD and have decided to become a vegan. The knowledge that making the right choices could affect an animal’s life felt empowering. In working with Rational Animal and A Tail at a Time I felt the same thing. By being knowledgeable and spreading awareness, much like what Rational Animal and A Tail at a Time already does, I could teach others to help fight against animal suffering.
to an entrepreneurial business. It’s difficult, but worth it if it’s for something you love!
My time with Rational Animal and A Tail at a Time has truly helped me grow as a person. I’ve gained better understanding about how smaller organizations need to run and how Susan and her lovely members do it as well as learned how integrated meat is in American culture.
Transitioning into veganism has been very difficult. Giving up certain foods aside, there are a lot of meat-derived products that are in non-meat foods. Looking up how beer is made for example. Apparently some breweries actually use a substance, called isinglass, which is derived from fish bladder to help clarify their product. Strange! My internship has definitely helped me to be more curious about what goes on my plate, or in my glass, before I eat it.
My animal welfare internship has ended for now, but that doesn’t mean I’ll forget the cats in 117th’s PetSmart! Here I’ve got a quick bio for each of my furry friends over there and some tips if any of you reading this are wondering if you’ve got what it takes to volunteer with A Tail at a Time.
Ozzy: A white a grey cat and roommate to Prince and Jordan. He is very playful, and though has been at the PetSmart adoption center for over 5 months, he seems the most adjusted. Unlike most of the other cats Ozzy plays on his own with toys, frequently chasing and batting them. He also loves wrestling with Prince, and is overall very sweet and outgoing.
Pagean (left): An orange, grey and white cat. What’s immediately striking about Pagean is her wide set eyes. Positively adorable! While preferring not to be held too much, I guarantee she will melt your heart with her pudgy face and make you laugh
with poorly coordinated attempts to jump up onto ledges.
Patches: The last of the three teenage cats, Patches is the sweetheart. His Fu Manchu eyebrows and whiskers stand out on his small face. I can’t wait to see what he looks like as an adult! Patches is hands down the most affectionate cat, often going to the others and nuzzling them. He loves being pet too!
Prince: An all black cat. A little guy, him and Ozzy are best friends. He doesn’t like being touched that much, but is quite graceful and gentle. He sort of reminds me of a jaguar! I think that if he were adopted with Ozzy into the same home he’d be able to get over his fear of humans.
Tabitha (right): Plump, like Pajean, Tabitha is our beloved crabby fat cat. Tabitha loves to eat, and for a while would somehow make it into the dry foods container to eat the food before we started hiding it. She doesn't always like to be held, but can be easily picked up and as long as there’s food around, is happy.
Jordan: A white cat with black splotches. He is super friendly and is very easy to pick up. He occasionally jumps from his high cage onto people’s backs. Him and his two roommates (Prince and Ozzy) are all friends!
Linda: Rocking the wild jungle cat look, Linda’s light green eyes and spotted grey and silver coat are quite a beauty to behold. She’s quite a climber though, and has been known to leave scratches (I would know).
Lionel: Complete with his lookalike Mackenzie, he is one of the three teenage cats living on 117th. Quite a jumper, he is very curious, sometimes getting into trouble and loves mealtime—aren’t all teenage boys like that? The only way we could tell Mackenzie and Lionel apart were Lionel’s cute little white feet!
Mackenzie: Similar to the picture posted here, Mackenzie is quite the sneaky cat. She loves eating and often steals food from others during chow time. She can be a bit crabby sometimes, a future Tabitha?Now that you’ve learned a little about A Tail at a Time’s 117th residents, here’s a rundown of the pros and cons of working there!
The number one thing is that taking care of cats is a lot of work. Often the shifts would take about two hours to clean and feed everybody. Doing a volunteer job like this requires some commitment and determination, but all your work will be rewarded in getting to hangout with the cats and see them make you laugh. Another thing that one definitely should know is to expect to get scratched. I’ve gotten a lot of scratches from the cats, but getting scratched a bit here and there can help you get over your fear of the pain. Getting scratched too much of course can pose a health risk because of bacteria potentially harbored under the cats’ nails. Be careful! If there’s one cat that seems to especially not like you and you keep getting scratched from them, keep your distance. Just like how some people can’t get along, you might not be able get along with every cat. I assure you though, that if you keep a positive attitude, taking care of the cats will seem less like a chore. As I continued to volunteer, I really saw each cat’s individual personality come together. By the time it was the end of my internship I had grown so attached to the cats that it was hard to say goodbye! Hopefully by the time I come back to New York City each cat will have found the loving home I know they deserve.