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.