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In the Cat House #4: Diary of an Animal Charity Volunteer (289 in dog years)

IN THE CAT HOUSE #4: DIARY OF AN ANIMAL CHARITY VOLUNTEER (289 IN DOG YEARS)Saturday.  We’re just about to lock up and leave the ADAPO* cat refuge for the day, when Célia gets a dreaded phone call from the bombeiros: another litter of newborn kittens has been rescued from a subterranean rubbish bin.

Everyone says it’s been a heavy year for abandoned kittens.  Instead of two seasons for feline reproduction, spring and autumn, it appears to be all year round now.  This is why we keep banging on about the importance of neutering cats and dogs. There’s no point in speculating about the nature of a person who could dump newborns in a bin. It’s more urgent to find a foster mother cat willing to adopt them, or a human foster mother who is prepared to bottle feed kittens every few hours.  

Two kittens had survived. We collected them from a simpatico guy at the fire station, who said they’d had to cut open the silo and climb inside to reach them.  

The cost of powdered baby dog/cat milk is unbelievable. I like to think of myself as pragmatic when it comes to scarce resources. (Actually, it’s all about my Yorkshire upbringing, hard as nails and tight-fisted with money).  I think it better to prioritise funds for, say, sterilising numbers of cats, rather than focussing on one badly injured animal who may not survive invasive surgery and whose likely outcome is a massive vet bill.  I thought, privately, that it would be a mercy if the kittens were put to sleep. Célia phones around, on a Saturday evening in the middle of an important football match.

The two kittens were wet and very cold. Cupped in my hands, they felt the warmth and stopped crying.  Now squirming and stretching, tiny pink mouths gasped, tiny paws grasped for life.  A young woman aptly named Dulce volunteered to take them in and commit to broken sleep for a couple of weeks until the kittens can lap independently.

Tuesday. A detour. On the way to the cat refuge we stop to pick up an injured fledgling from the road and take it to the RIAS Bird Sanctuary in Olhão’s Parque Natural. Here, they treat injured seabirds and wild birds. They don’t accept urban pigeons though, which are apparently considered ‘uma praga’ (pest or plague).

The two kittens have been seen by a vet and have a fighting chance.

Wednesday. Down at the canil, the happy dog we took out for the first time last week has been adopted. And today, a sweet dachshund cross will go on a trial basis for adoption. Hope it works out; she deserves a good home and a better name than ‘Little Sausage’.

Friday. Preparing for Olhão’s mercadinho artesanal, held on Saturday mornings on the Avenida da República. Our dear friends from Amsterdam brought us loads of pet paraphernalia to sell; collars and harnesses, leads, pet carriers and beds.  We must raise some money to pay vets bills. Last year ADAPO paid more than 10,000 euros in vets bills.  Far and away the biggest expense.  We’re going to have a proper market stall. I’ll even put apostrophes in all the wrong places on the price tags: litter tray’s, pet toy’s. Now, how do I say Roll up! Roll up! in Portuguese?

ADAPO is appealing for donations for the trap-neuter-return of specific colonies of street cats in Olhão, 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.

ADAPOIf 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. Details for donations are as follows:


NIF: 506870286
NIB: 0033 0000 4526918084305

ADAPO main FB page (in Portuguese): https://www.facebook.com/adapo.pt/

For more information, email bigodes.olhao@gmail.com or geral.adapo@hotmail.com

*ADAPO - Associação de Defesa dos Animais e Plantas de Olhão. Founder: Célia Caravela

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