Local non-profit calls on animal lovers to lend a helping hand

2019-06-19 06:00
: Judith Campbell. photo:supplied

: Judith Campbell. photo:supplied

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FOR the past few decades, local volunteers have been battling to keep the feral cat colonies in Nelson Mandela Bay under control, and they’re not showing any signs of slowing down.

A hardworking nature, deep well of patience and a fierce love for animals are what drive the Cat Care Port Elizabth team.

According to Judith Campbell, a foster mom and general committee member of Cat Care PE, they are not quite sure who all the original members were who started Cat Care, but one of the founding members, Helen White, is still involved in the organisation today.

“During the late 1980s and early ’90s, there were small groups of women individually feeding, trapping, having cats sterilised and then returning them to their colonies – all at their own cost,” said White. “They made a lot of headway with the colonies they were looking after but soon realised that if they were to band together and form a proper organisation, funds would be more readily available.

“It is for this reason that Cat Care Port Elizabeth was founded as a registered non-profit organisation during early 1992. Our principles remain unchanged from what that small band of women began.”

Campbell, who has been with them for about three-and-a-half years, was inspired to join when her daughter found two tiny ginger kittens at her place of work.

“They were living in a drain and so skinny and dirty. She found out that Cat Care could help her trap them, so they came on site and helped her rescue them both. She took one, Wasabi, and I took the other, Charlie.

“We were so impressed with the organisation, we decided we wanted to help,” she explained.

She also opened her home to Nemo, her oldest cat at almost 14, as well as Nugget, who lost most of the sight in one eye, and a dog, Oscar, who is a cross between a golden retriever and a spaniel.

“Our (Cat Care) focus is on controlling the feral colonies around PE. A feral colony develops when a domestic cat has been dumped or left to fend for itself by irresponsible owners.

“They breed and one feral cat can be responsible for up to 20 000 kittens in just five years,” Campbell said.

“In our last financial year, we homed a total of 199 kittens and 25 adult cats, and we sterilised 1 200 cats – including the kittens when they were old enough.”

The fieldworkers trap the adults, sterilise them and release them back into their colonies. They feed quite a number of colonies as well.

“If we come across kittens that are young enough to be tamed, we bring them into foster care and find good homes for them.

“If kittens are found with a mother cat that is healthy enough to feed them, then both are taken into foster care wherever possible,” Campbell explained.

She added that in most cases, however, the kittens are removed from the colonies while they are still young enough to be socialised, and they are fostered by volunteers and hand-raised where necessary before being adopted out to Cat Care-approved homes, which ensures the kittens a happy and healthy life.

The adoption fee for kittens includes their compulsory sterilisation.

“We have 12 fieldworkers, but not all of them are active and this is probably our area of greatest need.

“We have nine foster moms and several feral colony feeders, as well as a few administration volunteers who count money from tins, do banking, make things to sell, send out sterilisation reminders, keep Facebook updated and so on. From these various groups we have seven committee members,” Campbell explained.

Some of the biggest challenges Cat Care faces include not having enough fieldworkers and getting the bigger kittens adopted.

“We have a monthly budget for sterilising ferals and very often the budget is used within the first two weeks of the month and we can’t continue with more cases unless more money comes in.”

To become a Cat Care volunteer, one needs time and a heart to help.

“Fieldworkers need to have transport and patience and time to wait for the ferals to enter the traps so that they can be taken to a vet.

“Usually a trapped cat is kept overnight in the fieldworker’s garage or shed in the carrier because they can only be sterilised the following day on an empty stomach, so we make sure they don’t eat or drink anything after a certain time at night.

“We also need volunteers to feed various feral colonies around town. That means making your way there regularly and making sure they have food on a regular if not daily basis. A foster mom needs a room that can be dedicated to the kittens – warm and secure with toys and places to sleep, eat and use the litter tray.

“They also need time on their hands because kittens need to be bathed, weighed, fed and sometimes medicated quite regularly. You also have to take them to vet appointments from time to time,” Campbell said.

“We have struggled to find the right people.

“So often people are willing, but they don’t have the time. If we had more funds and more advertising to find good homes, we could take in more kittens and then we would definitely need more foster moms. Our limit is 30 kittens in total at the moment.”

They are also in need of volunteers, who can help at the tea kitchen they run at Walmer Town Hall, when there is a cat show on.

“I love the passion of the volunteers – you will never find more passion than among animal lovers. There is literally nothing they wouldn’t do to save a life or help a cat in distress.

“I enjoy fostering kittens immensely and the house feels strange when the kitten room is empty – which is very seldom!”

For more info go to www.catcarepe.co.za, contact catcarepe@gmail.com or visit the Cat Care Port Elizabeth Facebook page.

Donations can be made to:

Cat Care

Standard Bank

Account number: 083989625

Branch code: 05041700

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