The worst sin towards our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them, that’s the essence of inhumanity. – George Bernard Shaw
Hi! I’m Muriel and I’ve been fostering cats and kittens since May 2003, initially for a Cork-based animal welfare organisation, and for several organisations since, including AHAR, Kerry KLAWS, RAWR, SNIP, WCAWG (and not forgetting Animal Advocacy). I’m based in Bantry, West Cork, Ireland.
Some Chapters in Our History
Through my adult life, when work took up most of my time, I joined animal welfare organisations (amongst others) and donated money, rather than donating time. I always neutered my animal companions, and took them to the vets when they were ill, just like my mum taught me, and I would never walk past an animal in need. But I didn’t really get involved in animal welfare till I came to Ireland and Shapoloh was dumped on my doorstep.
Early in 2007 I lived in a terraced house in Bantry town with three resident cats (all rescued) and varying numbers of foster cats and kittens. Around then, Jennifer Carroll, the veterinary assistant for our local vet, Fachtna Collins, joined me in my fostering endeavours, helping with medication and kitten management generally.
Mid 2007, Jenni & I started a Trap Neuter Return (TNR) program in West Cork. This involves moving into feral and semi-feral cat populations, trapping the adults, neutering them and releasing them back into their population once they’ve recovered from the operation. Often it involves neutering colonies that have developed because private individuals haven’t neutered their domestic cat.
Until we started TNR I’d just fostered 2 to 4 kittens or one family at a time. When we started TNR we came across kittens in every cat population that we couldn’t simply just leave – apart from anything else they would grow up and continue producing kittens, which would pretty much defeat the purpose. If that wasn’t a good enough reason the state of some of the kittens we found was appalling – see Titan‘s pic on the right.
So, in 2007, I ended up with 25 cats and kittens at one point. And I had to reorganise a bit. I used one room to keep ill or new kittens separate and the bathroom could also take a couple of kittens that need isolated from the rest. Apart from that they all ran round loose in the house and, once they figured out the cat flap, the garden too. It wasn’t ideal but there was nowhere else for them to go!
Towards the end of 2007, Filament brought Feline Leukemia (FeLV) into the house and Shapoloh, a permanent resident, contracted it. We couldn’t carry on introducing kittens without an isolation period and we renovated three bedrooms into kitten sanctuaries, sectioned off from the rest of the house. At the same time Jenni was able to house outdoor rescue cats and kittens in sheds designed for that purpose in her back garden.
The autumn of 2008 cursed us with Feline Infectious Enteritis (FIE) and we’ll have to fumigate and review our working (voluntary?) practice before we can take any more kittens into my place.
Prime examples are, (see picture, from left to right): Duchess, at about 6 months of age, wandered into a house up the road from me and tried to take up residence – the householder knew I’d taken in cats in the past and appeared on my doorstep with her. I rescued Crusty from a house I used to visit regularly – of 3 adult cats and 4 litters of kittens he is the only known survivor. Shapoloh was dumped outside my old house at 5 weeks old. Right on a busy main road. They’re all lucky to be alive. For one reason or another they all ended up taking up permanent residence here.
Nearly every kitten & cat that has arrived at my house has a belly fat with worms (in contrast with their undernourished, skeletal body), is riddled with fleas and ear mites and, more often than not, can barely see for some kind of eye infection or other. Adult males are also usually raggedy with torn ears, patches of fur missing and/or numerous scratches from fighting. What breaks my heart is it only takes a few days to see an improvement and often the animal appears completely healthy and cared for after just a few weeks. Kittens we think are only 5 weeks old when they arrive blossom and have growth spurts which leave me wondering if they’re actually several weeks older. Males we neuter are much less aggressive and will live longer as a result. Neutered females also live longer – and won’t have to cope with scavenging for food for litter after litter that, despite their efforts, end up dying before maturity.
Food and care make such a difference; early treatment, before these problems get out of control needn’t be expensive and certainly isn’t time consuming – if caught at onset eye infections can be often be cleared up simply by regular bathing in water. But for some reason negligence seems to be the rule rather than the exception in this area.
Trap Neuter Return (TNR)
But our TNR work, carried out mostly by Jenni by this point, did make a difference. A big difference. So, I finally sat down and started reading about animal welfare and rescue – and Trap Neuter Return (see our Recommended Reading). And boy do I wish I’d read up on the issues back when I started!
Like many before me, I came to the conclusion that Trap Neuter Return (TNR) was the way forward. While rescue helps the individual animals taken in and rehomed, it doesn’t make any long term difference to the animal welfare problems endemic in Ireland. TNR does. With Targeted Trapping all animals in an area are neutered, overpopulation is addressed. And less animals need rescued every day of every year. A real long term solution.
We simply don’t have and can’t get enough money to rescue every animal in West Cork that needs our help. But we can humanely reduce the numbers of animals that will need our help in years to come … through TNR, neutering of companion animals, increasing human responsibility and legislative change.
Jenni and I had several long discussions about it. And RAWR (Rural Animal Welfare Resources) was born. With the help of other dedicated animal welfarites, we set up a company with charitable status and set off to neuter every cat in West Cork.
Not long after, RAWR started heading in a different direction from my original vision. Large scale targeted trapping in West Cork came off the agenda and the focus turned to localised TNR, neutering vouchers for companion animals, inevitable fostering and rehoming and the humungous task of fundraising generally. RAWR’s remit was primarily TNR and my other animal welfare work (UK cat trips, fostering and rehoming, networking, information provision) were encroaching on my time, meaning I spent less time on the voluntary work RAWR needed from me. By May 2011, after working on RAWR for over two years, I had to regretfully step back from the organisation and I left that month.
I carried on fostering, rehoming, transporting animals around Ireland and to the UK for rehoming, TNRing, networking and providing information. And I’d been meaning to set up webpages to support my voluntary work for a not insignificant while. But I never seemed to quite get round to it. I called myself Animal Advocacy. And I worked with a variety of animal welfare organisations including AHAR, Almost Home, ARC, Community Cats Network, Cork CAT, CSPCA, Feral Cats Ireland, KLAWS Kerry, Limerick Feral Cats, RAWR, pethelpers.ie, SNIP and WCAWG.
Towards the end of 2012, Maureen from Feral Cats Ireland got in touch to give me the heads up about an exciting new TNR project being set up by Done Deal Animal Foundation (DDAF). They wanted to inspire TNR projects throughout Ireland by raising awareness through advertising, information provision and workshops, and by providing equipment to groups that wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford it. They invited me to host workshops around the country. And I accepted with delight!
In the process of discussion we named the project ‘CATalyst – Community Action Trapping’ – a catalyst for community action trapping and TNR generally in Ireland. As part of my input I sat down to produce a variety of documentation and information leaflets for the project including CATalyst’s Vet Pack and TNR Manual for Ireland. And these webpages were born as a result – providing a location for the documentation as it progressed and allowing input, corrections and updates from DDAF and Feral Cats Ireland. It’s final resting place will be Feral Cats Ireland’s web pages, but Animal Advocacy will keep our own version on here for posterity *cheesy grin*
While these pages have started with a focus on the TNR Manual and it’s associated information sheets, we’re also using it to share our Fostering stories, our TNR experiences, our UK Trip information and all the other activities we get up to. In time we hope to provide you with all the information you could wish for on the TNR and animal welfare generally that we participate in.
We hope you enjoy!