Monday. I'm obviously too old for this malarkey. I was thinking: why are there so many stray cats in Olhão? Yes, traditionally, and pretty much universally, a fishing town hosted many cats and they were tolerated, even welcomed by fisherfolk and other workers because they kept the rats down. But in Olhão, the proliferation of cat colonies that has accompanied the regeneration, evolution, or gentrification - depending on your view - is just another big urban problem.
Many people lovingly feed colonies throughout the streets. However, those who give their leftovers and even buy sacks of cat kibble for their neighbouring felines rarely have the means to capture and transport the cats to the vet to have them treated. The average cost of neutering a female cat is around 100 euros, with a microchip, now required by law, even for stray cats, (don't ask me why) making it unaffordable.
As we know, a single pair of mating cats and their offspring can reproduce thousands in a few short years. In Olhão, the ruins and abandoned buildings where cat colonies can hide and proliferate are torn down, exposing little makeshift shelters that local people have carefully maintained to protect the cat families they feed. I've seen Célia, who set up ADAPO* many years ago, step in and stop the bulldozers in a bid to rescue cats and take them away to her cat shelter in Pechão. She has had calls from owners of properties which have been refurbished as holiday rentals. They don't want these stray cats wandering around their nice cubic rooftops and terraces, and expect us to just magick the cats away.
Tuesday. There's a fine 1940s building in the centre with apartments remodelled for sale as they become available. At the back, a family of 10 cats (3 of them skinny kittens with gluey eyes) became trapped on a veranda and stairwell as a large hotel was built up next door, blocking off the cats' exit routes to the street and rooftops. A local resident who was feeding the cats has now moved into a retirement home. The other residents of the building are indifferent to the fate of the cats, and the bank on the ground floor has complained about their presence (yes, that one that recently rewarded its senior directors for their failure). Well, who prioritises cats in a pandemic?
I've been nagging Célia not to accept any more cats. Like all the other cat and dog shelters up and down the Algarve, we are overwhelmed, overcrowded. But as soon as I touched these skeletal cats I knew ADAPO has to take them in, to treat and socialise them, and perhaps some will one day be re-homed. Look out for them on our ADAPO Bigodes/Whiskers for Adoption Facebook page.
Wednesday. More reports on animal charity Facebook pages of newborn kittens and puppies abandoned in rubbish bins. It’s particularly difficult now, with so many relying on food banks. How can people living on the breadline afford to take their pets to the vets? What can be done? We can at least ramp up sterilisation campaigns to control the multiplication of urban cat colonies.
Thursday. So here I am, appealing for your help. The Olhão Urban Cats Project will target specific colonies in the city, starting with large numbers at the Olhanense stadium, the Municipal Piscinas area, Olhão cemetery and other sites. We work in conjunction with trusted local vets. ADAPO volunteers will capture the cats, and transport them to the surgery where they are examined, sterilised, receive a long-lasting antibiotic and rest overnight before they are returned to their colonies.
All cats will also get a microchip and anti-rabies vaccine, legal requirements, funded by Olhão Municipal Council. We welcome your suggestions for names. ADAPO will photograph each cat captured and publish details of their return on our Facebook page.
If you can donate, ADAPO will be able to pay the vets for the surgery for as long as funds allow. Please give a reference for any donations: Olhão Urban Cats Project.
NIB: 0033 0000 4526918084305
ADAPO main FB page (in Portuguese): https://www.facebook.com/adapo.pt/
ADAPO Bigodes/ Whiskers for Adoption (in Portuguese and English): https://www.facebook.com/ADAPO-Bigodes-para-Ado%C3%A7%C3%A3o-em-Olh%C3%A3o-Whiskers-for-Adoption-in-Olh%C3%A3o-107847097748659
For more information, email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
*ADAPO - Associação de Defesa dos Animais e Plantas de Olhão. Founder: Célia Caravela