This summer, our little family decided to adopt a new kitten. When I started to research adoption options around town, I was amazed to discover that there are so many programs available beyond the traditional trip to the animal shelter.
Here are just a few unique programs that Knoxville has to offer, all sponsored by Young-Williams Animal Center:
1. Paws for Reading
I have a reluctant young reader at home, and I thought this program would be a great motivation for him to practice his summer reading. The Paws for Reading program encourages kids (or people of any age, really) to volunteer at the shelter by spending one-on-one time with an animal and reading aloud to it. This helps their adoptable animals acclimate to being around people, giving them some much-needed socialization time (and giving your kids some much-needed reading practice). It’s a win-win!
- Participating in the program requires a one-time $10 fee up front. Participants will receive a T-shirt in their size and will be expected to return to the shelter at least once a month. Participants will also need to sign a waiver before they begin.
- Paws for Reading is not just for reading to dogs. You can read to cats, bunnies, and even quail!
- Not every animal can participate in the program. As you walk through the shelter, you will see an orange Paws for Reading sticker on the cages of animals who have participated in the past. An animal missing a sticker might still be able to participate depending on the circumstances, but just know that you may be doing more playing than reading if your chosen pet isn’t super calm.
- Young-Williams often offers extra incentives for participants in their program. For example, throughout the month of July, they held a contest for the participant who could log the most hours reading to a pet. The prize was a four-pack of tickets to Soaky Mountain Water Park!
- Paws for Reading takes place at Young-Williams Animal Center (not the Village, which is a separate location), and participants should avoid coming between 1pm to 2pm each day, which is quiet hour for the animals and closed to visitors during that time.
2. Scruffy’s Cat Café
A hidden gem on the older side of town, Scruffy’s Cat Café, works directly with Young-Williams Animal Shelter to help stray cats find permanent homes in a very non-shelter sort of atmosphere. Rather than having cats in separate cages under harsh fluorescent lighting, Scruffy’s has a more laid back, dim-the-lights, living room environment where cats can roam free and guests are welcome to come and snuggle and play for an hour at a time.
- Guests pay a $10 fee to visit the café whether they interact with the cats or not. All proceeds support Young-Williams and keep the café running with supplies for the many cats that pass through their doors.
- Scruffy’s is an actual café; food and drinks are available for purchase, but must be kept in the lobby area, away from the cats. A number of locally made home goods are also available for purchase, as well as T-shirts, tote bags, and bumper stickers.
- Not every cat at Scruffy’s wants to be picked up or played with. Ages range from kittens to senior citizens, and their temperaments run the gamut. While the cats brought from the shelter to the café have been cleared of major health issues and or/behavioral issues, guests must still sign a waiver stating that they will not hold the café responsible for bites or scratches they incur while playing. There are signs and pictures up throughout the café to help educate guests about understanding cat body language and knowing when it’s best to leave a cat alone.
- There is no need to bring your own toys. (One of my boys was desperately trying to sneak a laser pointer in his pocket.) Scratching posts and toys are already provided at Scruffy’s, and there are plenty of options for you to choose from: mice, feathers, balls, fishing poles, lasers, etc.
- All cats at Scruffy’s Cat Café are available for adoption, and the adoption process and adoption fees are the same as you would find when adopting a cat directly from Young-Williams Animal Shelter (kittens are $100, adult cats are $50, and “senior citizens” are free).
3. Doggy Day Trip
My friend has a little boy who is nothing short of obsessed with dogs right now, and while she’s not ready to adopt a dog at the moment, I remember her asking online, “Is there anyone who would allow us to borrow their dog for a day?” It’s actually a more common request than you might think, and Young-Williams has a program that offers just such an option. When you participate in their Doggy Day Trip program, you get to “borrow” a dog for a four-hour time slot and take it on a trip somewhere away from the shelter. Young-Williams provides you with food, a portable/foldable water dish, a leash, and everything that you might need for your trip. It gives the dog some time away from the cage and practice being out in the world around people, and it also greatly increases the chances that the dog will be adopted, especially if you are taking photos and sharing them on social media.
Here’s what you need to know:
- A Doggy Day Trip is not a spur-of-the-moment decision. You need to fill out an application in advance. Young-Williams will also want a copy of your driver’s license. You will be sent a brief training video to watch and answer some questions to make sure you’re aware of the rules. Your trip could take a week or two to schedule, so be aware of that.
- It is highly recommended that your day trip take place out in public somewhere, perhaps downtown Knoxville or along a hiking trail. The dog that you borrow for your trip is not allowed to interact with other animals, so keep him away from pets that you already have at home and avoid dog parks (for liability reasons).
- You are not permitted to cross state lines with your dog.
- Have your car prepped with an old towel or blanket to cover the seat that the dog will sit on. Keep in mind that the dog is not allowed to ride in an open trunk bed — it must be transported safely and kept on the leash at all times.
- Each day from 1pm to 2pm, Young-Williams has a “quiet hour” for their shelter pets. Lights are dimmed and visitors are not permitted inside during this time. Be sure to schedule drop off/pick up for your day trip around this quiet hour.
4. Kitten Yoga
About once a month, Young Williams Animal Center will team up with a local yoga teacher to host a kitten yoga class. It’s no secret that yoga has incredible stress relieving benefits and spending time with pets has also been proven to relieve stress, so why not combine both activities into one?
- Kitten yoga/pilates is hosted by a variety of teachers at different locations. Upcoming events can be found on the calendar on the Young Williams website.
- These events are sporadic and usually only occur about once a month, so register early if you can because they are popular and often sell out in advance!
- Fees vary for kitten yoga classes depending on the teacher and the venue, but please know that a portion of your contribution supports the Young Williams Animal Center.
- The kittens at these events are available for adoption, so whether you’re looking for a brand new pet or just an hour to stretch and de-stress, your participation in this class will help these animals find a permanent home!