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Kitty matchmaker: Volunteering to give felines their best chance

The saying “if you love them, let them go” rings true for Houston SPCA volunteer Jessica Harris. Many animal lovers who work at animal shelters have a hard time not taking all of the pets home, but Jessica Harris has discovered her talent for finding the animals she loves the perfect family for them, even if it means saying goodbye.

Many families come to Houston SPCA looking for the right pet for their home, and Jessica is there to make that a reality. She not only helps connect families with their dream pet but ensures that each pet she works with finds the right match as well.

“My story starts as an adopter. In April 2008, I adopted a cat from Houston SPCA and I got to do what people do today. I sat in a room with her and some other cats and was able to figure out which one I bonded with. I adopted her and she was the perfect cat! I had her for about ten years before she passed from cancer. A few months later I started thinking about getting a cat again.”

Adley took her by surprise. Jessica came looking for an adult cat but left with the 10-week-old Adley.

Jessica and her cat, Adley, who she adopted four years ago.

Getting to Know the Pets

The first step to creating a good match is understanding each pet’s personality. A family can come to our campus and talk through what kind of animal they want to adopt, but with cats, you have to do a bit more digging to get to the heart of what they’re looking for!

Jessica takes the time to understand our felines and what kind of personality they have. She evaluates what type of home they’ll thrive in. When a family comes to visit us, she always has just the cat for them, because she has such a love for each and every feline and an understanding of their story.

“Some of them just know they’re going to a better life and they’re such nice cats to be around because they’re thankful for the better life they’re going to have,” she says.

When potential adopter and veteran Thomas Foose came to meet his new cat, he had a specific one in mind that he had seen on our available pets page. When he arrived, Jess made sure they got to meet but realized it likely wasn’t quite the perfect fit for him and his two (very large) dogs.

Turns out, she had an inkling that Osbaldo, now Ocelot, would be a match for Tom and his other furry family members, especially since his other dog at home is also a tripaw!

“She was up-to-date on all of his info, like when he needed follow-up vet visits, what his ‘no’ areas were, things like that,” said Thomas. “She generally knew everything about Ocelot, and she was very good with allowing him to do his thing and not force an interaction.”

Ocelot had an injury on his front paw that led to bone exposure but was treated as soon as possible by our veterinary staff with a limb amputation.

An Asset to the Team

Jessica has logged almost 200 hours at Houston SPCA facilitating adoptions and helping place and care for cats at local PetSmart stores.

Houston SPCA matches thousands of pets per year, and many families visit our campus to find their new best friend. Having knowledgeable counselors to assist them in that search is such a valuable portion of the experience, and Jessica is a part of the team helping to make that happen.

“Jessica is valued due to the compassion and patience she shows to potential adopters and felines alike,” says Houston SPCA Care Coordinator Sarah Nutt. “She doesn’t rush them into adopting; she makes sure she matches the right feline to the right family. She takes time to get to know the shy and scared felines, never rushing them to open up.”

For Jessica, the adopter experience and the pet experience are equally important, since she’s helping families create a bond that will last a lifetime.

“There’s a difference between taking in an animal and choosing an animal and having an animal choose you. Because adoption brought so much to me and my life, I really want to help other people do that.”

If you want to donate your time to Houston SPCA, click here to learn more about how to become a volunteer!

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