The October trip started out with a big problem-my trap had been broken so catching any cats was going to be almost impossible as most that need to be sterilised are feral and impossible to handle.
I spent much of the trip feeding cats as it was immediately obvious that there was no food in many of the usual feeding areas. I did some emailing in the internet cafe, (I go lo-tech when I’m there!) and discovered that their usual feeder was away and although they had left somebody to cover, it wasn’t really happening so there were a lot of very hungry cats.
It was very sad to see them waiting by empty bowls but I soon got into a schedule of feeding and the more brave and amiable ones would be waiting for me. I realised that a lovely ginger was one of the first ones I had ever neutered but he had moved areas slightly and become very friendly indeed. Maybe he remembered me, I don’t know!
One night when I was feeding, there was a tortoishell cat who was limping so badly and I noticed that her back leg was just dangling. She was so hungry that when I put food down she hobbled along on three legs and I saw that she had an enormous lump on her hip that looked to me like it could be a tumour. This was terrible-I could not possibly leave her like this but my trap was broken and she was too wild to be picked up-even in her condition, she tried to run and I didn’t want her to hurt herself so had to think quickly. I sped back to get my trap and bits and bobs and managed to botch it together so that I could use a peg and a bit of wire to control it-after a fashion! Luckily she was so hungry that she went in the trap and at lightening speed I had to close the door and capture her before she could bolt back out. Just as I was crawling around on hands and knees trying to sort her out, some people came along and asked what I was doing. Now, this is difficult enough in English but when I am explaining in my terrible Spanish on all fours, it is a sight to behold! Luckily, they spoke English-Iskra was Bulgarian but living there and had been feeding the cats and Dave who was English-I never meet English people there ever! He kindly offered me a lift to the vets the next day in his camper van so I took her to the apartment and as she was stuck in the trap, I slept on the sofa next to her to reassure her. I suspected that it was going to be her last night and I wanted her to not be afraid. She wasn’t. She just kept looking at me and I kept talking to her. We bonded that night. The next day, even though I knew in my heart that she would probably have to be put to sleep, when my vet confirmed that she was very ill with a massive tumour and there was nothing that could be done, I said goodbye in floods of tears and stroked her until she was gone. She had been really struggling-RIP brave little cat.
When I went to check on the harbour cats, I was calling Rodrigo and the gang who came running out but I could also hear a high pitched squeal from deep in the rocks. I carried on calling and a tabby kitten came clambering out squealing and looking terrified but hunger had given her the courage to emerge. This is a stable neutered colony that has been there for years-there should not be any kittens there at all! I managed to tempt her with some food and grab her. It was obvious she had been dumped there and again I knew I had to do something but didn’t know what. We left to feed all the others in the town and to decide what to do.
When we returned, we realised that her presence had really upset the harbour cats and although they were normally friends, Rodrigo was trying to fight all the others and also smack the kitten round the head at the same time. He was rolling around fighting with his friend so much that they drew blood-I had to separate them with a broom-it was awful. The kitten was then even more scared and I knew she couldn’t stay there. Suddenly I heard more squealing coming from down some steps and on investigating, I spotted another petrified kitten shaking in a pile of pallets.
This kitten was much more timid than the other. We were trying to figure out what to do and it was starting to get dark. I couldn’t imagine leaving them there for the night so I set off to get the broken trap leaving my poor mum there to make sure they didn’t hide themselves away in the meantime. The round trip on foot took about an hour so it was pitch black by the time I was able to use the cobbled together trap to catch them both at the same time. What a relief when I did and I got them indoors!
I gave them a good check over and plenty of food and knew that now they were in, there was no turning back.
I knew I wouldn’t be able to find a home for them in Spain so turned my mind to bringing them to the UK but knew it wasn’t going to be easy. For a start, I was due to return to the UK in two days time and there was nowhere for them to go while I sorted pet passports. They needed to be microchipped and vaccinated against rabies then wait for the required 21 days before entry to the UK. I asked my friend who runs El Jardinet dels Gats in Barcelona if she could look after them for 3 weeks and was delighted when she said yes! So, the next day we set off with them on the train hoping that they wouldn’t be stressed but they just cuddled up and slept and a few hours after setting off, we left them with my friend Alex at Jardinet. I immediately named the kittens Alexia and Salvador in her honour!
As soon as I got back to the UK the next day, I set to work trying to arrange transport to get them to London. It was a long and complicated process but then I happened to be lobbying in parliament against the badger cull and met someone who was there for the same reason who owned an animal transport company. My friend Annika then offered to look after them in Paris while we waited for the required 21 days to pass from the date of the rabies jabs-they would not be allowed entry until then.
It was while they were here that Salvador tested positive for FELV. This was a real blow and although he may be negative, we must wait 3 months for a re-test. Annika kindly said that they can stay with her until that time-she has been amazing in caring for them so well-they are very lucky. As you can see, they get on with dogs whether the dog wants to or not!
We are looking for a very special home for these two babies who have been through so much in their short lives. Although they are currently in limbo in Paris, they have their pet passports and can come to the UK at any time.
They are enjoying a French Christmas just now but if you can offer a home to this beautiful pair, please email me firstname.lastname@example.org
Merry Christmas from Mama Cat Trust!