Animal lover Katie Storey has won an award for her commitment to vulnerable cats and kittens.
Storey, an SPCA volunteer, won the charity’s Outstanding Young Volunteer award, announced last week to coincide with National Volunteer Week.
“I knew I was nominated, but I didn’t think out of everyone in New Zealand I would win,” Storey said. “It was a bit crazy.”
SPCA Masterton animal care leader Rachel Norman said Storey was very deserving of the award.
“Katie will turn her hand to anything: keeping the place clean, interacting with animals, organising things.”
The 20-year-old volunteered at the Masterton centre every Sunday.
Storey often took on the extra responsibility of training new volunteers.
Norman said volunteers had to absorb a lot of information within a short amount of time, and Storey would help them by setting an example.
“If we have someone like Katie who knows how everything works, we know we can set her off on a task, and it will be done.”
Storey only had limited time to volunteer outside of her day job at a Masterton honey factory.
However, she planned to return to the industry she loved eventually.
“I definitely want my career to be within the animal care industry, and hopefully working with animals in need.”
One option she had considered was working in animal control. She often found herself stopping and calling the pound when she saw stray dogs wandering around.
“It would just break my heart if I left them there. If it was someone’s loving little pet like mine, I couldn’t live with myself if something happened to that dog.”
She had adopted her own dog, Cara, from the SPCA in 2018.
“She’s actually what inspired me to go for a career in animal care. Once I adopted her and started learning more and more about her, I realised I wanted to know everything about her.”
That urge had compelled Storey to leave Wairarapa College at the end of Year 12 to begin studying animal care.
She started working at the SPCA in 2019 as a placement while completing her Level 3 Certificate in Animal Care at UCOL Masterton.
When Storey had completed her assigned hours, she found herself sticking around.
“I kind of never left – I just kept going.”
After the Level 3 course, Storey completed a Level 5 Certificate in Animal Technology [Vet Nursing Assistant] at WelTec’s Porirua campus.
The more advanced certificate taught students how to maintain the health of animals within a veterinary clinic, help with surgery preparation and anaesthesia, and assist with routine diagnostic procedures.
Storey said she would leave the option of becoming a vet nurse open, but she preferred working with rescue animals.
She often took her work home, fostering up to seven kittens at a time.
SPCA senior external communications adviser Briar Marbeck said Storey’s work with these kittens had impressed the centre’s staff the most.
“Katie always shows great care and patience, particularly when dealing with shy cats, which can be harder to handle,” Marbeck said.
Some of the kittens Storey fostered needed bottle feeding around the clock; others that were sick required constant monitoring.
“When Katie returns the kittens she fosters to the centre, they’re always well socialised, friendly, healthy, and ready to find their new homes,” Marbeck said.
SPCA chief executive Andrea Midgen said without volunteers such as Storey, the charity could not function. Across the organisation, there were more than 10 volunteers to every one staff member.
“Our volunteers really are the heart of SPCA, and if it weren’t for them, we wouldn’t be able to help the number of animals that we do each year,” Midgen said.
Staff and volunteers around New Zealand had nominated 143 of their standout volunteers for the awards. A panel of Purina and SPCA staff then judged the nominations.
The winners of each of six categories would receive a year’s supply of pet food, as well as an espresso machine, worth a total value of $600.