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Cats Protection Swale appeals for volunteers across Sittingbourne, Sheppey and Faversham

A charity desperately needs to raise more funds after its vets bills almost doubled to more than £60,000 in the last year.

Cats Protection Swale covers the entire district including Sittingbourne, Sheppey and Faversham.

Charlie strayed for years before being taken in by the charity
Charlie strayed for years before being taken in by the charity

Fosterer Joa Savage helps with welfare cases, publicity and fundraising for the branch.

The Iwade resident first started volunteering for the charity in 1995 while living elsewhere.

She said: “I have a big passion for animal welfare and I absolutely love all animals – especially cats.

“I want to see them treated a lot better than they are, especially the welfare standards.

“We have so many people who have cats because they know people whose cats have had kittens so they just take them.

“But they don’t neuter them and they become poorly, or they have kittens themselves. Normally they call us when it’s too late.”

Eastchurch resident Lynn Chamberlain decided to get involved with the charity around 18 months ago.

She explained: “I just wanted to do something a little bit more rewarding as I get older and financially I didn’t need to work so much.

“I started out as an admin team leader, then started helping the fundraisers on the stalls and now I’m treasurer and I also foster.

“We all do a bit of everything.”

The branch is currently looking for more volunteers to organise fundraising events, help at events or donate. It currently has around 25.

Joa said: “It’s not every weekend or even every month, but we need committed people who want to make a difference.”

Cats Protection Swale is looking for volunteers
Cats Protection Swale is looking for volunteers

To inquire about volunteering opportunities, email branchteamleader@swale.cats.org.uk

The charity is also urging people to get their cats microchipped, as it is now a legal requirement from June 10.

The Swale branch was founded 23 years ago. As well as helping cats that have been abandoned and stray cats, it also does trap, neuter and release (TNR).

Joa explained: “We have lots of feral colonies in Swale and we humanely trap them, we neuter them and we return them because they’ll never be domesticated cats. These cats want to live outdoors.

“We are all volunteers. We are a self-funded branch, each branch of Cats Protection is self-funded.

“We cover a whole remit of work including microchipping stray cats and unfortunately picking up ones that have been injured.

“We offer neuter vouchers to people to help them if they’re on low income.”

They also rehome cats if owners' circumstances change, but there is a waiting list.

“With the cost of living we’re seeing this a lot,” Joa added.

Last year, the branch spent £60,557 on vet bills alone and more than 300 cats went through its books.

Lola, a ragdoll that was taken in by Cats Protection Swale
Lola, a ragdoll that was taken in by Cats Protection Swale

This is almost double from the previous year where £37,783 was spent.

The branch also spent an additional £3,440 on other cat welfare costs last year.

Joa explained: “Vets are our biggest outgoing, they’re about 95% of what we spend.

“We don’t have outgoings because we don’t have a homing centre. We also don’t have a shop, whereas other branches might have both or one of those things.

“We do everything from our own homes. My spare bedroom is where my foster cats go.

“We run a waiting list and it is always very long. We only have a finite amount of fosterers so we can’t just put the cats in any room.

Rosie, a ragdoll that was taken in by Cats Protection Swale
Rosie, a ragdoll that was taken in by Cats Protection Swale

“It has to be a room that has been approved and is suitable for a cat.”

Lynn recently became a fosterer and says she has “got a lot out of it”.

She said: “It’s really rewarding to look after a cat, nurse it to health and see it be adopted by a nice family.

“With fostering, everything is supplied for you. You don’t have to pay for anything.

“We supply everything, from litter tray to food, to a brush if they need that.

“It’s almost like having your own cat but without the cost.”

The branch was recently contacted by someone who breeds ragdolls and British longhairs asking if they would take four of their cats as they “had too many”.

When volunteers went to collect the cats, they found that they were all in a neglected state with untreated medical conditions.

The charity took them into its care and a two-year-old cat, Lola, had to have 22 of her teeth removed, and is left with just two. She has now found a loving home.

Joa said: “Over breeding is a common cause for tooth decay in cats.

“The others will need eye care for the rest of their lives but this could have been avoided if they’d been treated when first symptoms appeared.”

The branch took cat Herbie into its care in July 2023 as his elderly owner could no longer meet his needs.

Herbie after he was rehomed
Herbie after he was rehomed

He had been fed a mostly human diet and had stomach issues as a result.

After being put on medication and having all his teeth removed, he was rehomed and his new owners “adore him”.

Another case the branch dealt with last year was Charlie, who came into its care after his family got a dog and he “involuntarily moved out” of his Eastchurch home.

He strayed for years and a neighbour started to feed him before taking him to the vets when he became poorly.

Joa said: “Bruiser Charlie has really had a tough time and it shows on his face, but neutering, brushing, some decent food and love will bring this cat to a different level.”

Stanley was abandoned when his owners moved away from Winstanley Road in Sheerness.

Stanley was abandoned after his owners moved away
Stanley was abandoned after his owners moved away

He was reported to the branch after he began to look unwell. Locals reported that local teenagers were throwing stones at him.

Joa said: “We made space and picked him up.

“A long road to health was endured by Stanley as he had lost all trust in humans, but we nurtured him, we fed him up and we found him the best home.

“Stanley is FIV positive, but lives a very happy and healthy life now with his new family.”

Joa said they’ve seen a rise in the number of people surrendering their cats in the last year, and has stressed the importance of neutering.

She explained: “Kittens can mate from four months old and they will mate with their brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers. It’s instinctive for them.

“The best thing health-wise is to neuter your cat, and we can assist people with that if they’re struggling or if they’re on a benefit or low income. All they have to do is ask.”

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