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In the Cat House #5: Diary of an Animal Charity Volunteer (10 sacks per wk)

IN THE CAT HOUSE #5: DIARY OF AN ANIMAL CHARITY VOLUNTEER (10 SACKS PER WK)Monday. I receive a birthday card that reads “You are one year closer to being a Crazy Cat Lady”.  Hmmm. Too late. What was I supposed to do with retirement? I played Candy Crush for a year, then I helped in a charity shop. I’ve found, though, that nothing beats shifting sacks of cat poo. You can keep your watercolours and golf.

The two kittens that firefighters recently retrieved from a rubbish bin in Olhão are doing fine. They are a grey female and a black and white male. I haven’t seen them since they were rescued, but they’ll be needing a forever home soon. In the meantime, another five were picked up from a countryside road near Pechão.  A driver nearly ran one over, but stopped just in time and took them home to his family, who are caring for them. They appeared healthy and clean; about three weeks old: four greys and one tabby. All have secured homes as they have all the evolutionary advantages of fofinho babies: cute, with big googly eyes, perky little ears and silky fur.  Left in the road! I have as big a talent for expletives as Boris Johnson, but some things leave me dumbfounded.

The fledgling we took to the RIAS Bird Sanctuary turned out to be uninjured, but just heat-exhausted. A toutinegra-de-cabeça-preta, or black-headed warbler, it has now been released, and hopefully has found some warbling mates in the Reserva Natural.

Tuesday. At the ADAPO* cat shelter we have to create more shade. The cats are listless in the heat,  lounging around in their fur coats, paws in the air. There’s always a few following me around as I rake the sandpit toilets: Jambo, who wants to play, Paulinha, an elderly cat who wants a reassuring cuddle.  She has the air of an old lady in the initial stages of dementia, wandering around in her nightie, trying to find her mother. (What, projecting?  Me?) There’s Naná, who’s ready to shred my shins for a tasty snack.   The last time we did flea treatment we counted 55 cats.  It’s nearer 70 now, after the addition of the eleven Veranda cats. And the little wild cat rescued from the supermarket cladding. Oh, and the female cat with the infected mammaries. Then the little ginger cat from a colony who had to have his rotten teeth out. Not forgetting Pantera, a sweet and silky six-month-old who had been adopted, but didn’t like her family, or their Yorkie dog.  That’s quite a lot of cat poo. Not all the cats can be caught.  I don’t even know all their names! Of the Veranda cats, only the matriarch allows Célia to stroke her. The others all run off. There’s a majestic male we’ve named Rameses; lanky with huge ears, and poses like an Egyptian feline god.

Thursday. The Olhão Urban Cats Project is going ahead and Célia goes out cat-catching tonight. Last week two targeted females resolutely refused to be caught for neutering. You need endless patience, waiting for your target cat to walk into a baited trap. I only like the release part, after neutering and recovery.  It’s a great moment when you open the trap door to let the cat go and they race off into freedom again, on their familiar territory.  They will not now produce recurrent litters of unwanted kittens. Moreover, the females won’t develop uterine problems or breast tumours and the males will not develop testicular or prostate cancer, and there will be less aggression between competing males, so fewer injuries.  It’s all worth it. Lockdown was good for capturing cats.  There was no-one around and we got into the rhythm of it: trap, neuter and return.

Friday. Célia only managed to catch one cat, despite having four traps going.

The Saturday mercadinho artesanal on the Avenida da República has been cancelled again due to Covid. But never mind the pestilence, let’s look out for extreme heat and wildfires - nothin’ like optimism, eh?

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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