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Jo Morrison has climbed the equivalent of over 30,000ft to the summit of Mount Everest to raise funds for Isle of Wight cats

As Deputy Manager of our Isle of Wight Adoption Centre, Jo Morrison has dedicated over 30 years to helping local moggies.

To celebrate this amazing milestone, she decided to trek around Ryde and climb her stairs at home to virtually conquer the highest mountain in the world, Mount Everest.

Jo tracked her total elevation on an app as she went but delay in the app updating meant she actually trekked more than the 29,032ft of Everest, climbing 30,314ft in total – over 1,000ft for every year she has worked at Cats Protection.

woman with long blonde hair wearing pink woolly hat in front of fake backdrop of snowy mountainJo in front of a virtual Mount Everest 

As motivation to keep climbing her stairs up to 100 times a day she asked people to sponsor her with the goal of reaching £600 to benefit the centre’s cats. In the end, she smashed her fundraising target, receiving over £900 in generous donations for her efforts.

Jo, who started working at the centre in 1990, said: “I wasn’t sure I could do it when I first chose Mount Everest but I love cats, I love the adoption centre’s cats and I especially love my own two cats Sylvester and Tippy who came from Cats Protection originally. Cats have been my passion all my life and I hope this climb helps a few more of the cats that come through our centre.” 

When Jo began working at the centre as a Cat Care Assistant she thought her life would ultimately be one on the stage but as she dedicated more time to feline welfare and cats stole the limelight, she decided her starring role should be helping needy cats and finding them their perfect homes.

Originally known as the Ryde Shelter, before becoming the Isle of Wight Shelter and then the Isle of Wight Adoption Centre, Jo remembers the site consisted of a series of wooden outbuildings with cat pens inside, making up a kitten shed, homing block and an isolation block.

woman with long blonde hair wearing pink woolly hat with residential street behind herwoman with long blonde hair wearing pink woolly hat with residential street behind herJo on one of her treks around town

Nothing was computerised and all cat blankets and bedding were washed by hand. There were originally also 12 pens on a separate area of land which was a boarding cattery that was wound-up in 2000.

Thanks to a legacy, the centre was rebuilt in 1998 to look as it does today, which was when Jo returned to the Island, after a brief period volunteering for the charity in Ipswich, and became Deputy Manager.

Jo says: “This is my 30th winter with Cats Protection. I always thought I’d move away and even tried it for a while but when I went to the mainland in 1996 I couldn’t get the charity out of my head so I worked for a local vet and joined the local branch in Ipswich where I helped out at the shop, assisted with fundraising and fostered cats. In all this time Cats Protection has been an absolute constant in my life and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

“When I started at the shelter there were chickens, ducks, goats, rabbits and guinea pigs on-site. The ducks used to chase me until I was brave enough to stand up to them. Then we had two orphan sheep who would steal my lunch.

“I’ve always helped out with fundraising, I even spent a day and night locked in a cat pen with a cat called Mr Wally to raise money. He had plenty of space as he could get to the indoor pen and stay away from me if he wanted but I was in the outdoor part of the run, it was very cramped for a human but Mr Wally seemed to enjoy the extra cuddles.

“This climb has been the most physically demanding fundraising I’ve done, particularly as I suffer with sciatica, so I’m really proud to have reached the top. As always my friendship with Centre Manager Mel has also spurred me on – she has always been a great teacher, leader and support.

“I feel privileged to have helped so many cats over the years including my first experience of hand-rearing four kittens from four days old in 1992, two of which I adopted. It was an amazing highlight. More recently I fostered four kittens who were dumped at our gates during lockdown.

“Other memorable cats have included six stowaways from Malta who came to the centre after their quarantine; four tabby kittens who were dumped in a box in the telephone box as well as 29 cats that came here to Ryde and our Exeter Adoption Centre after 164 cats were seized from the ferry from Jersey.

“There have been so many wonderful moggies, those with three legs, one eye, heart conditions, skin problems and more. Every cat has the best care we can give and taking part in my Everest climb is just one way I can help ensure the centre continues to go from strength to strength and we carry on finding cats the best homes possible.”

If you’ve been inspired to take on a virtual challenge of your own, sign up now to our Climb for Cats January challenge.

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