Feline lovers traveling abroad on this -- or any other day -- can take heart if they're missing their four-footed loved ones.
With help from Canada-based GoVoluntouring, we've assembled a list of opportunities where you can get up close and aid a big cat (Africa) or a regular-sized kitty (Mexico). Here are some of the options:
White Lion Conservation Project in South Africa: The critically endangered white lion gave birth naturally in one place only -- the Timbavati region of South Africa. The last white lion was seen in the wild in 1994, after which time they were technically extinct.
This is a volunteer opportunity to work with the reintroduction of white lions into the wild in their native area. Volunteers form part of the conservation monitoring and tracking team and have an opportunity to gain authentic field experience while making a contribution to the long-term conservation of the white lions.
Lions, Leopards and Cheetahs Find Sanctuary in Namibia: Na-ankuse Sanctuary provides volunteers with the rare opportunity to work closely with and actively participate in the conservation of African wildlife. The sanctuary provides refuge for orphaned and injured critters including lions, leopards, and cheetahs.
Volunteers at the sanctuary will feed the animals, take them on walks and go on game counts.
Lion Rehab in Zimbabwe: In 1975, more than 200,000 lions roamed the African continent. Estimates from 2002 put the number of lions between 23,000 and 39,000, an enormous decline in less than 30 years. Volunteers can join African Impact on its Victoria Falls Lion Conservation Project and get involved in researching lions’ behavior.
Cheetah Reintroduction in South Africa: Volunteers work hands-on with cheetahs and learn more about this endangered species with PoD Volunteer, a Britain-based organization. Travelers will be part of a pioneering reintroduction project, which aims to see cheetahs back in their natural habitat.
Volunteers also will act as ambassadors for the project, raising awareness of the problems cheetahs face and what the project is doing to help them. They will be recording data, which allows a profile to be created for each cheetah so its health and condition can be monitored. They also can help make improvements to the cheetah enclosures.
Managing Feral Cats in Mexico: The large number of feral cats living on city streets is a global problem. Although many of these animals are abandoned pets, most are feral -- having been born and dying in the streets. Starvation and disease result in an average life span of one to two years. Volunteers are needed to help teach children responsible pet ownership and assist in a free spay and neuter clinic in Puebla, Mexico.