White ducks running free on the railings of the animal welfare sanctuary in Portugal

Your trip at a glance


  • Care for animals that have been rescued from situa­tions of neglect or abuse
  • Gain knowledge about species-appro­priate animal keeping
  • Raise awareness of animal welfare and defend the interests of animals
  • Contribute to the adoption of stray, abandoned or rescued animals
  • Support the restora­tion of the natural habitat for native plants and wildlife
  • Practice an all-around vegetarian lifestyle during your time on the project
  • Live on the 27-hectare grounds of the animal shelter
  • Work with both local and inter­na­tional volun­teers
  • Enjoy a stay in glorious, sun-drenched Portugal close to the city of Santarém


A person overlooks the Tejo River on the outskirts of the Santarém District in Portugal on a slightly cloudy day at sunrise
Santarém District

Plan your trip

  • Included in the programme fee
    • Placement in the programme
    • Assistance with travel arrangements
    • Assistance with selecting travel insurance
    • Assistance with booking flights
    • Risk coverage certificate

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Meghan, your travel expert for Portugal

Don't hesitate to contact me if you would like to learn more about this journey! I answer all of your questions and assist you before, during and after your adventure abroad.

In the cats' outdoor enclosure, several black car tyres are mounted in an arc on a white wall. An additional tyre is leaning against one of the two existing tree trunks and a cat is sitting on it.
The animal welfare organisation in Portugal has many green spaces in the district of Santarém
From a few metres away, the triangular, wooden chicken house can be seen in front of a row of conifers.
A glimpse into the wooden chicken coop in which ducks are kept.
A horse stands relatively far away in a green pasture. Two single, small trees can be seen in the foreground.
This elongated, leafy outdoor enclosure provides plenty of exercise for the cats at the rescue centre in the Santarém district.
The sanctuary for animals in need in Portugal has several white buildings with reddish roofs in a leafy setting
The single room is furnished with light grey furniture. This includes a single bed, two bedside tables with lamps and a chest of drawers under the window. There is also a carpet on the laminate floor.
The double room in the volunteer accommodation has a double bed made of dark wood, bedside cabinets with bedside lamps, a window, white walls and a laminate floor.
The shared room in the volunteer accommodation has two metal bunk beds and thus sleeps four people
The common living room of the volunteer house has a large seating area and a small TV.
White ducks running free on the railings of the animal welfare sanctuary in Portugal
Part of volunteering in Portugal is walking dogs across meadows, as seen in this picture.
The indoor area for the cats is equipped with many baskets as well as raised areas
The meadow illuminated by the sunlight shines in a bright, lush green. There are a few strong trees in the foreground and bushes and trees can also be seen behind the meadow.

Volunteering in animal welfare in Portugal

Join this animal shelter as a volunteer in beautiful Portugal and assist in the caretaking of rescued, abandoned and neglected creatures and help restore natural habitats on the property.

The sanctuary in Portugal is home to many different species of animals - including goats.

Arrival in the Santarém District

If you’re travelling by plane, you should book a flight to Lisbon International Airport, also known as Humberto Delgado Airport. This way, you arrive in the capital at the country’s largest airport. The easiest way to continue your journey would be to get a rental car at the airport. The vehicle would also serve as a valuable means of transport during your time on the project. Alternatively, you can combine public transport with a taxi or Uber to get to the shelter. At the entrance to the property, you will be welcomed by a staff member, and after an orientation tour, you can settle in and prepare to start your work the next day.

A volunteer worker holds a brown chicken in front of his chest and strokes it.

Activ­i­ties of an animal welfare volunteer

You will work five days a week for about 7 to 8 hours. The tasks depend on the needs of the animals, the sanctuary and your skills. You will usually be involved in the daily cleaning of the animal enclosures and the mucking out of the sleeping areas’ bedding, help with feeding (such as providing hay to the horses), as well as assist with the maintenance and repairs on the property. To establish natural habitats on the site, you will plant native trees, remove invasive species, take care of the flower garden, practise bush clearance and carry out other tasks that are part of forest maintenance.

Dogs run free in the yard of the rescue centre in Portugal.

Accom­mo­da­tion on the ground of the shelter

Volunteers are accommodated in a comfortable house that can host up to six participants at a time, with rooms not segregated by gender. There are two private rooms (one single and one double) and a dormitory with two bunk beds (four beds). Often, only one person stays in the double room. The well-equipped kitchen, bathroom and living room with TV and games are common areas. Once a week, deep cleaning of the volunteer accommodation takes place, and the volunteers have to do their part.

The well-equipped kitchen, where volunteers can prepare their own food, has bright green cupboards and high ceilings, as well as a door leading outside.

Board during your volunteer stay

Food and beverages are not included in the price of your stay. The tap water inside the volunteer house is not of tested drinking water quality. However, there is a tap of drinkable water outside. Please ensure to bring a large reusable water bottle to stay hydrated. You can easily order your food from an online supermarket and have your groceries delivered to the shelter or drive with your rental car to the centre of Santarém, where you will find several supermarkets. Meat and fish may not be consumed on-site. Thus, you will practice a vegetarian diet during your project time.

Animal lovers care for the animals in animal welfare

Enjoying leisure time in Portugal

After your work, you can also spend time with the animals if you wish – like cuddling with the cats or playing with the dogs. You can also explore the surroundings of the shelter or relax and play games with other volunteers. In addition to the afternoons, you also have days off on weekdays. On weekends, your help is needed at the shelter. On hot summer days, you can go to the beach or swim in the river. The cooler winter months also treat you with pleasant highs of 15-18 °C – ideal for a weekend excursion to Lisbon.

FAQ – Learn more about this trip

Learn what others say about their Natucate adventure.

Review Volunteering Greece – Elli

“I liked it very much! I still miss all the cats there.”

Read more
Auch bei eisigen Temperaturen und im Schnee verbringen die Pferde ihre Zeit im Freien.
Jessica steht mit einem großen Lächeln im Gesicht neben einem friedlichen Schimmel im Pferdeschutz Projekt als Freiwilligenhelferin in Kanada
Review Volunteering Canada Horse Welfare – Jessica

“The birth of a foal and watching it grow up afterwards was very beautiful. Especially because I had never seen such a young foal before.”

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Review Volunteering Greece – Caroline

“Really nice partner on site [...] Interacting with cats: fulfilled or even exceeded”

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Review Volunteering Portugal – Robert

“I really liked the proximity to the wolves. I could see every one of them, some of them even every day.”

Read more
  • A person overlooks the Tejo River on the outskirts of the Santarém District in Portugal on a slightly cloudy day at sunrise
    1. Santarém District

    The 6,700 km² Portuguese Santarém District is located north of Portugal’s capital Lisbon and is one of the warmest regions in Portugal. Coming from Spain in the east, the Tejo (port.) or Tajo (span.) river crosses this region as Portugal’s largest river. The area is known for agriculture and cattle breeding. The capital of this district is also called Santarém. The city of Santarém offers not only an excellent view of the Tejo valley, but also stunning streets with Renaissance buildings, Gothic monuments, several churches, museums, a castle and an extensive historic centre.

Background infor­ma­tion about the volunteer project in Portugal

Founded in 2007, our Portuguese partner organisation, “SOS Animal”, a non-profit, non-governmental organisation, has been working to protect all animals and their habitats ever since. It raises awareness about animal welfare, defends the interests of animals and promotes veganism. Since 2015, our partner has also been running a solidarity veterinary clinic in Lisbon, providing veterinary care to animals owned by citizens in proven need. As a result, care is provided for the animals of hundreds of households with low incomes. Furthermore, our partner contributes to the adoption of stray, abandoned or rescued animals from situations of neglect or abuse. Between 2015 and 2021, SOS Animal found new adoptive homes for 637 rescued animals, performed 3212 stray sterilisations and provided 9776 free consultations.

Due to the fact that our partner does not receive any government funding, they rely on volunteers to support them in carrying out this project. If you are a dedicated animal lover who doesn’t mind physical work and wants to contribute to this good cause, you may be the perfect match!


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