Here for the Cats!
25 May 2020
Before COVID-19 we took many things for granted, being able to visit family and friends, hug a loved one, come and go from our homes as and when we wanted to and so much more. In our case this included helping to rehome unwanted cats and kittens, it was something which we did day in, day out, year after year thanks to the support and generosity of our donors and supporters and the hard work and commitment of our staff and volunteers. We set out at the beginning of 2020 determined to help more cats than we ever did before and the year started well with 299 cats rehomed from the 1st January to 18th March. As the COVID-19 crisis developed, we soon realised that our plans for the year would be changing drastically to keep our people and cats safe whilst continuing to #HereForTheCats in the best way we can.
Following guidelines from the government and Cats Protection Operation team the centre closed for all homing and cat admissions. This was an extremely difficult adjustment for all of the team to make as this was the fundamental part of the work at the centre, especially as the realisation hit that the cats in our care could be with us for weeks/potentially months. Despite the fear and uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, we were determined that the welfare of the cats in the centre would not be compromised so we adjusted our rotas and processes to ensure that we were able to social distance effectively and ensure that all the cat’s needs are met on a daily basis. We put into place a daily socialisation programme to ensure the cats in our care have as much attention and variety during the day as possible. Food is split into 4 smaller meals and fed using puzzle feeders, and morning and afternoon sessions used for grooming, play time and general socialisation. The puzzle feeders and toys were changed regularly to keep cats interested and our cat carers got busy making cat toys and forts out of cardboard boxes for extra enrichment.
To take the pressure off the team caring for the cats, all our calls were diverted to the main Cats Protection contact centre, who dealt with the calls and referred any emergency cat intake requests to us. Initially we didn’t have any requests for help in our area but on the 30th April, we had our first emergency referral. A couple had been caring for a stray cat believed to be abandoned for three months and she had given birth to 4 kittens. The mum cat, who we called Nightingale was very lethargic and crying in pain, she also showed little interest in her kittens. We knew we had to act quickly but safely in line with the new cat admission and transportation guidelines. I contacted the couple who were caring for Nightingale to complete the admission questions, explain the collection process, get the acceptance form digitally signed and to arrange the collection.
Our Cat care assistant Sophie was briefed beforehand on the situation and given time to read through and familiarise herself with the new transportation guidelines. We put checklists in place as this was a completely new procedure with a lot to remember and sent her armed with all the PPE, she needed to collect Nightingale. Nightingale was in a pitiful state and was clearly in a great deal of pain so Sophie’s first port of call after collecting her was our vet. After examination the vet decided she needed admitting and she remained there for 6 days before being well enough to move into our maternity wing and we are happy to say they are all thriving. We chose the name Nightingale as a tribute to the NHS and decided to ask our Facebook supporters to help us choose names for the kittens to reflect this. We had many suggestions, after reading through them all, we chose the names put forward by Denise Jones a Healthcare Assistant for Cwm Taf University Health Board as they had received the most likes. Denise chose the names Diana after the Princess of Wales Hospital on Coity Road in Bridgend, Charles for Prince Charles Hospital in Merthyr Tydfil, Nye for Aneurin Bevan who founded the NHS and Florence to complement Nightingale after the founder of modern nursing.
We have admitted 29 further cats and kittens since Nightingale came into our care and this number is increasing daily. All the cats have their own sad story and upsetting circumstances. Bugsy was admitted after his owner passed away from COVID-19, this was very difficult emotionally to deal with but our team is resilient and working with a family member, Bugsy was collected by one of our cat carers and has settled well in our care.
Newly admitted cats are routinely scanned for microchips, and a chip was found in Bugsy, it had actually migrated to one of his front forelegs! A quick check revealed that Bugsy was registered to a different address, a phone call established that Bugsy has been missing for 2 years from the Cardiff area, 40 miles away. Unfortunately the family’s circumstances had changed and they weren’t in a position to have Bugsy back, he has now been signed into our care, Bugsy is a lovely cat and it Is not surprising that he is reserved and will soon be on his way to his forever home.
Snowy was straying for a while, a concerned member of the public contacted us as he had a tail injury and appeared to be uncomfortable, he was also dirty and dishevelled. We had him vet checked soon after we admitted into our care, he has lost part of his tail and the remaining part needs to be amputated, he is comfortable and is due to have surgery next week.
On the 4th May we started the contactless pilot homing scheme, although we had trepidations about this at first, we all agreed that homing the cats in our centre was the best welfare for them. We put aside our concerns and wholeheartedly embraced the process, imagine our delight at the huge response we had from the public! We were initially overwhelmed with the number of enquiries but soon found our stride and had an efficient system in place for handling the requests with Cat care assistants and receptionists carrying out respective parts of the process. By the end of the day we had 7 cats reserved, and by the 6th May, 17 reserved and 5 homed! We have now homed over 50 cats with several more reserved, this is a tremendous achievement and a great reflection on our great teamwork and willingness to change and adapt to do what is best for cats.
Floss was the first cat to leave the centre, Floss was admitted into our care on the 7th February 2020 because the landlord didn’t allow pets. She was 2 years old and heavily pregnant at the time, she gave birth to three beautiful kittens whom she did a great job of rearing. Thankfully, our vet was happy to continue neutering cats for us in line with the current guidelines and this was done once her kittens were weaned. To avoid the public non-essential travel, we are currently delivering cats, the morning of the 5th May one of our cat carer’s wearing PPE took Floss to her forever home. Her adopter Stephanie was delighted to welcome Floss into her home and it wasn’t long before Floss settled in very quickly. Stephanie said “Floss, now renamed Freya seems to have settled in well and is very playful but also likes to keep me company when I am working. Thank you for letting us have her! She is much loved.”
Fox and Badger were the second pair of cats to be adopted from the centre, these two lovely boys came into our care as they were found huddled together in a someone’s shed. They are a lovely pair of cats who loved each other but despite our best efforts we couldn’t find an owner. These two pulled on all of our heart strings but much as we loved them, we were very happy to see them leave our care to their forever home. It was heart-warming to receive this lovely update from Emily on them “Fox and Badger, now renamed Harry and Marv seem to be settling in well and are enjoying having lots of space to run around in together. They’re both lovely cats who enjoys a lot of fuss and cuddles. Thank you so much for looking after them and for bringing them to us last week.”
We are now into our fourth week of admitting and homing cats, and the new way of working has quickly become the new normal. We the same as everyone else are looking forward to the easing of the lockdown, but for now we are grateful to be #HereForTheCats.
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