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In the Cat House #6: Diary of an Animal Charity Volunteer (Not quite all own teeth)

IN THE CAT HOUSE #6: DIARY OF AN ANIMAL CHARITY VOLUNTEER (NOT QUITE ALL OWN TEETH)Saturday.  Two cats are released after neutering. The previous week Célia had only managed to capture one cat in the bairro of Horta do Pádua in Olhão.  We asked the vet to name her Siouxie Sue on the microchip, but then it was found that she was quite old and had no teeth. And she was pregnant. Perhaps we’d better drop the ‘have a cat named after you’ idea. We certainly don’t want to link anyone with a toothless old crone of a cat.

This week’s two were also female.  The vet reported that one was about a year old but had already given birth, and the other about eight years old, also pregnant.  That’s quite a long reproductive life.

There are an estimated 500 street cats in Olhão, or about 1,000 if we include Fuseta, Moncarapacho and Pechão.  So the ADAPO* Urban Cats Project is just a tiny, wee drop in the ocean. But it’s better than not doing it.  Full marks go to SOS Algarve Animals, for their record of 898 animals sterilised so far in 2021 alone.

Sunday. On the abandoned kitten front this week, the two kittens rescued from the rubbish by firefighters are healthy and have been adopted. Joy! We know of three more found in the rubbish, this time near the Olhanense stadium, still with their umbilical cords.  But this is getting monotonous, isn’t it, this tedious listing?  On and on. Perhaps we should set up ‘kitten/puppy dumping stations’ like the baby hatches in churches and orphanages in past centuries. These were turntable devices in church walls for depositing infants.  The desperate mother leaving her baby could not be seen, but the nuns collected the ‘foundling’ on the other side when they heard a bell ring.  Or will some people just continue to treat newborn dogs and cats like rubbish?

It’s the economics, stupid, as someone nearly said.  When people have two or three pets but struggle to pay their bills how can the vets’ costs be paid? Some animal charities have been helping by subsidising the cost of sterilisation.  I gather that there is government money set aside for this, but no-one has even sniffed it.

Monday.  They are cleaning the pigeon poo from the calçadinhas on the Avenida, preparing for a new art installation of crochet and recycled plastic bottles.  It’s much more effective than it sounds! When I first came to Olhão I was struck by how good-looking the local pigeons were.  Like the feral cats, which include surprising numbers of Siamese, blue-eyed whites and Russian Blues, the feral pigeons look like they come from a long line of prized birds. The ‘colombofilo’ or pigeon-fancier clubs in every Portuguese town appear to be full of old fellas who keep their beloved racers on their rooftops, releasing them to fly in formation, morning and evening. But as the pigeon fanciers die off, their pigeons become feral. They too have been abandoned.

Yes, I know. Rats with wings.  A few years ago, I ‘experimented’ on a pigeon colony using corn treated with contraceptives which I obtained from the municipal vet.  At night I put out some of this corn in the tree wells on Olhão’s main Avenida. I think the population of one particular colony decreased, although it was difficult to count as another colony from up the Avenida often joined. Over the months, my spouse and friends feared for my sanity.  Drunks and others meandering back home in the dark demanded to know what the hell I was doing. Local residents shouted at me. I stopped after I received a resounding kick from a drunken foreigner. Urban pigeons can be very divisive.

We adore storks and the calls of andorinhas and gulls. Songbirds are lovely.  But such is speciesism that urban pigeons can be mown down in the road without protest.  Refurbished buildings in Olhão now have spikes or razorwire or other ‘pigeon guards’ to keep them off ledges, so that local pigeons now resemble those of London; hobbling around on broken feet.  As the ruins are tarted up, the nests are destroyed. The pigeons have no water to bathe and they can’t feed properly so they look terrible. Bats are a protected species but not pigeons.  And look where that has got us.

Community problems like urban pigeons need community solutions: municipalities need to create feeding stations for pigeons, away from public thoroughfares, and use the contraceptive corn if they must, to reduce the population.  But not barbaric methods. We are better than that.

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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