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1st June 2023

An appeal has gone out for volunteer fosterers to help domestic abuse survivors flee danger by providing a temporary haven for pet cats in Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire.

Cats Protection’s Paws Protect fostering service is being launched in East Anglia after seeing a 53%* increase in the number of referrals from people in the region needing specialised support.

Cats Protection will continue to work in partnership with Dogs Trust, which already runs its Freedom Project across East Anglia. The two charities' partnership in the South East has seen 1,930 pets fostered since 2004 through their specialist domestic abuse services.

This expansion of Paws Protect in the eastern counties has been supported by a three-year grant of £315k from the Pets at Home Foundation.

Natalie Ratcliffe, Paws Protect Manager for East Anglia, said: “We have operated our specialist cat fostering service in London and the South East since 2017 and recently launched in Yorkshire. With this move into East Anglia, we will be able to provide support for more cat owners experiencing domestic abuse when they need it most.

“In 2022 we saw a sharp increase in referrals from people needing help in East Anglia, but there wasn’t a specialist domestic abuse fostering service for them. We are delighted to expand Paws Protect into this region, but we can only do that with the support of volunteers.”

As many refuges are unable to accept pets, owning a cat can be a barrier for people escaping domestic abuse. Abusive people will also target the pets within the home, with pets often used as a tool to coerce and control their partner or in some tragic cases, killed by the perpetrator. The ability to place a pet in temporary foster care with the expectation of it being returned when the situation allows is one less worry for those planning to flee abuse.

A cat will generally stay with a fosterer for five months until they can be safely reunited with their owners, but holiday cover can be organised to ensure foster carers are able to enjoy a well-deserved break.

Natalie said: “We are urgently appealing for volunteers to foster cats in their own homes. Expenses such as vet bills and food costs are covered by Cats Protection, so this is an opportunity to enjoy the company of a cat and help someone in need.

“Fostering for Paws Protect is a rewarding experience, offering a survivor of abuse the freedom to flee with the knowledge their beloved cats are safe. 96% of our current volunteers said that fostering a cat through Paws Protect has had a positive impact on their wellbeing and mental health, which is a bonus to the valued help they are providing.”

All cats taken in by the Paws Protect service are treated sensitively, with total anonymity assured. A fosterer will not know who the owner is or where they live, and the cat will be cared for in an area away from its original address. Regular photos and updates will be provided to give the owners peace of mind.

Learn more about volunteering as a Paws Protect fosterer online or call 0300 012 0283.

*53% increase from a 12 month period between 2019 (17) to 2022 (26).

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