Vet Tails Excerpt – ARRC Goes to the “Dark Side” and Noah from ARRC
As part of this approach and ARRC’s commitment to the preservation of our natural environment ARRC became proactive with animal related projects such as our “Community Cat Project” and our “Adopt a Pet Program”. With the rapidly growing number of stray and un-owned cats in Tauranga, we became aware that the welfare of these cats was being very negatively impacted. These cats are often dumped or abandoned and when they are not desexed they breed and are left to fend for themselves. If they cannot find another food source, wildlife may be preyed on and we witnessed this with wildlife that was being brought in to us for rehabilitation.
Additionally, we were aware of a number of people in our community frustrated and upset that these cats’ welfare suffered, wildlife was impacted upon and that some of these cats could be a nuisance too. Since no other organisation in Tauranga was addressing this issue, Sue (ARRC and Holistic Vets’s manager who we refer to as “Super Sue” because she has incredible people skills and has never-ending enthusiasm and energy to help any human or animal that she can) and I strategized a way to help our community, the cats and our wildlife of course.
The project we undertook was to be far more extensive than what we had envisioned. We found that many stray / unowned cats had wild or feral behaviour, and many of these were sick, injured and couldn’t be responsibly rehomed so needed to be humanely euthanased. But there were many cats that were tame and could be responsibly rehomed after we desexed them.
Some conservationists were not supportive of our project, they could not understand how a wildlife trust could help cats and that we had gone to the “dark side”. Thankfully, over the years we have managed to educate these people and help them to realise that the only sustainable approach for this problem is to help people to see that wildlife and cats have value in our community. If we can cultivate an attitude that encourages the responsible care of cats as valued pets, which ensures that they are fed well, desexed and ideally kept from roaming, then our wildlife and cats can co-exist harmoniously.
This project has been immensely difficult and against great odds, high risk and many obstacles, we hung in there to do something about the problem when no one else would. Along the way there have been some memorable moments and opportunities to have a good laugh.
An elderly couple adopted a gorgeous cat from ARRC called Blossom. A couple of weeks later Sue rang to enquire as to how Blossom was settling in. The couple were most concerned as the main part of their life for a number of years had been watching television and they found that Blossom was scared of the television. They then shared, much to our relief, that they adapted their lifestyle to live with the TV off most of the time and their beloved Blossom became a well settled and happy cat!
A lady rang up very distressed about a cat that was hanging around her house. With further conversation Sue determined that the cat belonged to the lady’s neighbour and advised that unfortunately ARRC was unable to help in this situation but made the helpful suggestion that she get a dog to discourage the cat from coming over. The lady was most satisfied with this advice.
A lovely couple adopted a young female cat and were delighted to have her since their old cat had recently died and they missed her terribly. Two weeks later they rang ARRC as they had a problem; their gorgeous new cat loved the company of their neighbour’s cat and seemed to be spending a lot of time at the neighbour’s house which they weren’t happy about at all. They were keen to adopt a second young cat as soon as possible so that they could give her some cat company to entice her to stay home and they now have two delightful ARRC cats that stay home and give them plenty of entertainment and affection!
One day an elderly gentleman rang, having been referred to ARRC by several organisations. He was concerned about a stray cat that was under his bed and it only seemed to be there at night when he was going to sleep. Sue asked a series of questions to determine if she was able to help and after ascertaining that the windows and doors to the bedroom were shut, none of the neighbours had a cat or had seen a stray cat and the gentleman had also never actually seen the cat (just thought it was there), they eventually came to the conclusion that perhaps it was his medication and that he should perhaps check in with his doctor!
A lovely handsome cat was brought to us by a kindly member of the public who had been feeding it for over a year as it had been left behind when the neighbours had moved – unfortunately a commonly-encountered scenario. They thought she was a girl and named her Tinkerbell but after a vet check, all was revealed and we identified that she was a he and Tinkerbell was renamed Tinkerballs. After desexing his name needed adapting to Tinkerballess and was later changed to more dignified “Tinker”. One of the cats we rehomed went to a loving owner who decided that an apt name for the delightful big boy would be “Noah” from ARRC!
One of the large colonies of cats we worked on had nearly one hundred cats that had to be trapped and either desexed and rehomed or humanely euthanased. It took weeks to complete this part of the project and we knew that we had finally come to the end of the colony when the last of the traps contained a stoat and a confused looking Alfie the cat, who belonged to one of the neighbours and had entered one of the traps to take advantage of a free meal.
We had the occasional very heavily pregnant cat that was brought in for desexing literally at the last minute with the person bringing the cat in desperate to have them desexed before they had yet another litter of kittens. One of these was reported to have quite wild behaviour but when she was brought in, she had just begun to deliver her litter of kittens in the car and she turned out to be a gentle girl. It was almost as if she knew she was being taken in to be speyed and quietly protested by giving birth! She reared her kittens and after we desexed Mumma cat and all of her babies, they were adopted into great homes.
It never ceases to amaze us how many kittens are brought in having never had human contact yet they are delightful and at ease being handled. Our very first kitten that helped us to launch our project with his presence on radio and in the newspaper was one such kitten which we named Felix. It was not long before he found a loving home setting us on track to get our project off to a great start. Another kitten that was brought into us after people had seen it thrown out of a moving vehicle was a delightful little girl. Upon examination she had no significant injuries but she had a deformity which left her with one ear missing, she was named Vincent Van Gough!
Our work addressing the stray / unowned cat problem in New Zealand is ongoing and ultimately will become sustainable when our society accepts cats as valued pets to be looked after responsibly. Ultimately education about responsible pet ownership, as well as conservation and environmental sustainability and legislative changes will be important to help get to the root of this problem. With this in mind, ARRC’s main focus, aside from day-to-day operations of rehabilitating wildlife, has become our ARRC Kids Education Programme to help drive a culture change.
It focuses on bringing the themes of conservation, animal welfare and environmental sustainability together and helps children to understand how man impacts on nature, and what they can do to help to conserve our wildlife. This involves illustrating how pollution, irresponsible pet ownership, overfishing, deforestation, cruel and inconsiderate behaviour can all be turned around to support a sustainable future.