My latest profile piece is a break from my normal interiors and lifestyle focus, but it’s a cause that’s very close to my heart – Bristol & Wales Cat Rescue. This amazing charity, run entirely by volunteers, cares for and rehomes more than 500 abandoned cats and kittens in Bristol and beyond every year. I adopted my very own Kanga (pictured above and below – isn’t he a handsome chap?) from them and for the last year I’ve volunteered as one of their home checkers.
Over to Margaret, one of the charity’s founders, to tell us more…
How did Bristol & Wales Cat Rescue begin?
“A few of us were volunteers for the Cats Protection League in Bristol. I was walking my dogs one day and saw a poster in a field about a dog rescue centre in Carmarthenshire. I went over to help and learned that there’s a real problem rehoming cats over there. A group of us decided to start Bristol & Wales Cat Rescue so that we could cover a wider area and find owners for as many cats as possible. It grew from there, and seven years later we rehome 500+ cats each year. So it was pure chance really – if I hadn’t seen that poster, the charity might not exist!”
What happens to the cats you look after?
“They’re fostered in our own homes for however long it takes to find them an owner. They receive all the love and treatment they need – and in some cases rehabilitation as they can be mentally scarred. If they can’t be rehomed due to ill health or behavioural issues then they stay with us for life and enter our sponsorship scheme. People are incredibly kind, though, and most do get adopted. Even a 19-year-old blind boy found himself a new home!
“All the cats are wormed and treated for fleas, and neutered and microchipped if old enough. No cat is rehomed without receiving all the veterinary care it needs.”
Where does your love of cats stem from?
“I had my first kitten when I was five – a little ginger Tom called Nicky. He was very ill with cat flu and unfortunately he didn’t make it; I can still remember the trip to the vet and him dying in my arms in the car. I think I decided very early on that I wanted to help animals, and I had a succession of dogs and cats over the next 50 years. I wanted to be a vet for a long time but decided that I’d just end up with a house full of animals as I wouldn’t be able to put them to sleep – ironic really, as I’m now sitting here typing with 22 cats!”
It must be tough at times – what keeps you and the rest of the team motivated?
“It is hard sometimes. Losing poorly cats is very tough, and dealing with ill-treated animals can be emotionally draining. The constant pressure of finding money to pay vets’ bills can also wear you down, and most of us work full-time so we juggle our jobs with phone calls, emails, home checks, vet trips and food collections. But we love what we do; we have a great team and we all support each other. And seeing one of our cats settle happily into their forever home is incredibly rewarding.”
What should people do if they’re interested in adopting a cat?
“First of all, get in touch via email or phone. We’ll then arrange a home check to help match you with the right puss and talk through the cost and responsibility of owning a cat. If the home check is successful, you can then go to meet the cat in the fosterer’s home. There’s a small amount of paperwork, and we ask for a donation to help the charity continue its work, but in most instances you’re then able to take the cat home. We’ll do a post-adoption check after a couple of months to make sure everything’s going well.”
Are there any other ways to help Bristol & Wales Cat Rescue?
“Donations via bank transfer or cheque are always welcome, as are food and equipment. Even old towels are incredibly useful! But donating doesn’t have to mean spending money – you can join Easyfundraising and raise money as you shop, or you could do a sponsored event for us. We also opened a charity shop in Nailsea last year – it’s doing well but it’s a constant struggle to find stock, so any unwanted items are much appreciated. We need volunteers to man the shop, too.
“We desperately need more foster homes in the Bristol area, so if you’re interested please get in touch; you’ll be given full training, equipment and 24-hour support. But even small things such as liking and sharing our Facebook posts can help cats find a new home.”
Is there anything cat owners can do to reduce the number of cats in need of a home?
“Neutering has to be top of the list! We’re lucky that we can rehome kittens easily in Bristol, but many aren’t so fortunate. If you rent and need to move then start looking for a pet-friendly landlord as soon as possible; a lot of cats are abandoned because people leave it too late. Another reason cats have to be taken in is their owners dying, so it’s sensible to make arrangements. Finally, insure your pet – we’re often asked to care for sick or injured cats when their owners can’t afford treatment.”
Find out more about Bristol & Wales Cat Rescue on their website and Facebook page (the ‘happy endings’ are particularly heart-warming!). The charity is also holding a rehoming show in Frenchay, Bristol, on 29th March, where you can chat through the adoption process and meet cats in need of a home.