Saturday. Two more female cats have been neutered and released, paid for by public donations to the ADAPO* Urban Cats Project in Olhão. This time from a colony around the Olhanense stadium. A tabby was named Mel, or ‘honey’ and a black cat, Ratinha, which could translate as ‘little mouse’ or ‘little rat’, depending on whether she’d been behaving herself, as there is always some ambiguity in translation.
Tuesday. At the cat shelter, a rat had got into the compound, and finding itself confronted by seventy-odd cats apparently had a heart attack. It was eventually prised from the jaws of Maria, a cat we previously thought of as a bit of a wet-wipe.
I’d never appreciated how beautiful rats could be, until I kept finding dead ones. I was out in the campo with Célia, leaving food and water for some dogs we care for, when, during the hot months, there always seemed to be a drowned rat in the dogs’ water buckets. In time we realised that the rat needed to drink, fell into the bucket, then could not climb out, so drowned. This was annoying because I had to throw out the dead rat and carry more fresh water for the dogs. I’d only ever seen brown rats scurrying around, which makes them so scary. But close up, they have a blond belly and pink claws and reminded me of the chinchillas I used to keep as a kid.
Until someone left the cellar door open and the cat ate them.
Célia decided to thread a fine strip of net through the bucket handles, so the rat could get a grip and clamber out after drinking. Moreover, we put out a smaller dish of water for the birds and other small mammals. Problem solved.
Anyhow, about the chinchillas. I used to spend all of my pocket money on keeping rodents. Maybe my parents thought that my observations of breeding mice would naturally lead me to a Mendelian understanding of what was then coyly referred to as ‘the facts of life’. (But I wasn’t a very bright kid. My best friend in the playground had to whisper about the exact mechanics.) All I observed was that if I left the male in the same cage as a pregnant female, he would kill the newborns. I didn’t know that this was a reasonable response to the stress of captivity. Children and pets can be a monstrous combination.
Thursday. We have several kittens looking for homes, and while the ADAPO Bigodes para Adoção Facebook page usually features adult cats, you can also find photos of the three black Musketeers, rescued from a supermarket warehouse. There’s a female tortoiseshell retrieved from a car engine near Quelfes cemetery, and there’s Oreo, who’s completely blind. All are around 3 months old, currently fostered, house-trained, adorably playful and affectionate, and during lockdown they might have been lucky. In the middle of the holiday season, not so much.
Blind Oreo, in particular, is an amazing little character. He was brought in from a colony in a very bad way and after veterinary intervention, is otherwise healthy. It’s unclear whether he was born blind or just lost his sight due to illness. But he plays like a lunatic and makes you laugh. However, it takes a special family to foster or adopt a blind cat, preferably one with experience. We already have an adult blind female at the refuge, Julie. We’re not sure how much shape or shade she can see, but she seems to follow the trajectory of a ball from its sound. We have to remember not to move furniture around too much, or she gets confused and loses her ‘landmarks’.
Up and down the Algarve animal charities will keep going, and it's creatures like Oreo and Julie that make us smile and remember that what we do might seem crazy to others, but it makes us feel less helpless in this messy world.
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.
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. Details for donations are as follows:
NIB: 0033 0000 4526918084305
ADAPO main FB page (in Portuguese): https://www.facebook.com/adapo.pt/
For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
*ADAPO - Associação de Defesa dos Animais e Plantas de Olhão. Founder: Célia Caravela