Author Archives: Em

Goodbye 2017, Hello 2018

As the new year is about to begin, I am pausing to reflect on the year gone by. It surely has been a year filled with mixed emotions. CCN has grown in strength as we now have more cat trapping volunteers and cover a wider area. This has resulted in an increasing number of cats being helped (see our stats). The support from our followers has also been truly amazing. They know what we do and support us accordingly. This is of course encouraging and keeps us motivated. However, the success of the organisation also has its drawbacks with an increasing number of calls coming in; no matter the time of the day or the day of the week, we are expected to be at the other end of the phone and to solve each and every problem immediately. Obviously, the fact that more people are looking for help for the cats is welcome, but the demands are often impossible to meet, which results in frustration on both parts.

Although CCN have achieved so much in the past six years, it remains a small organisation, run by a small number of very dedicated volunteers, human beings whose lives can at times be dictated by improving the welfare of cats. Yet, in the eye of the public, we are just an organisation, set up to resolve the problem of cat over-population. How we manage it is of very little concern to them. Since the inception of the organisation, we are aware of the dangers of compassion fatigue; however, we are drawn by a compulsion to help cats in need, we just cannot turn a blind eye. People who know us, be they friends or supporters, keep reminding us that we need to mind ourselves and they are right of course. Others involved in animal rescue know well what I am talking about as this is not something specific to CCN. When involved in animal welfare, you face a trojan task; it is all the more difficult that it can get emotional when witnessing on a daily basis the suffering of animals. Dealing with this and other personal problems can become dangerously challenging.

I recently met up with Maggie, co-founder of the organisation, and we were discussing those ambiguous feelings. We are truly amazed at what has been achieved, but we are also burnt out and wondering about how we can manage to cope. We decided to both take a hiatus for the rest of the year and encouraged other volunteers to also take some kind of a break, so that we could catch up with unfinished work, as well as mind ourselves and reflect about the future and how to better deal with it. I have decided to write this new year’s post in the first person because it expresses personal views, but also to remind the public that behind the name “Community Cats Network” are human beings who sometimes struggle to help animals in need and raise the funds to do so.

Behind the name “Community Cats Network” are a bunch of unpaid volunteers who will go above and beyond to help cats in need. However, for this to happen, we need to be treated with the respect that is due to any human being. What gives us the motivation is the ability to assist people who care for cats and to see the lives of these cats improved thanks to our efforts. Most who will read this post are supporters who are already aware of this, but I hope it also reaches out to others and make some understand that we can achieve a lot more by finding solutions together. We don’t see ourselves as heroes saving the lives of animals, rather we see ourselves as just regular people who are here to assist and guide communities in solving the very real problem of cat over-population, which more often than not also has its toll on the humans caring for the cats.

I don’t wish much for 2018, just that we can continue our mission peacefully and help many more cats and their people. Hopefully, we can make another little step forward to make this world a better place to live for cats.

I would like to take this opportunity to celebrate all the volunteers who keep CCN going: the cat trappers, the ones dealing with administration and fundraising and the ones who lend a helpful hand when they can and in the way they can; they all play a crucial role in helping cats in needs and it is thanks to this combination of forces that the organisation can achieve so much. The vets and vet nurses we work with also deserve a special mention for caring for the cats of course, but also as friendly ears and shoulders who help to keep our spirits uplifted. On behalf of all at CCN, I would like to thank the supporters, be they donors of funds or donors of kind words to keep us going, the organisation would not be without them. I wish you all and your furry friends a happy and healthy new year!

Em

More Than We Bargain for

It is a lovely Saturday afternoon in Youghal and the lady is in her garden with her children enjoying the rays of the warm sun of May when a little black and white cat walks in and meows. The lady has a humane reaction and offers this little cat some leftovers from the Saturday lunch. The following day, the little cat returns and waits outside the patio door until she gets fed. The lady is a bit concerned and takes some photos to put on social media to find out whether this cat is owned. That Monday morning, the little cat is still in her garden and the lady makes some phone calls to rescues to look for help, but the answer is the same everywhere: “sorry, we are full.” Kitten season has begun and the volunteers for all cat welfare organisations are already wondering how they are going to cope…

Then, one organisation gives a different answer: they can help to have the cat neutered and advertise her on their website for rehoming. It is not really what the lady was hoping for, but it is better than nothing. And so, that evening, the volunteer from Community Cats Network calls in with a cage. The cat is nowhere to be seen though and both caller and volunteer think she may have returned home, or… The volunteer leaves a cage with the lady and they promise to keep in touch. A few days later, the little cat shows up again hungrier than ever, and the following day again. The lady, kind and caring, feeds her and that Monday morning puts her in the cage to bring her to the volunteer. A few hours later, the little cat has been neutered but the reality they did not want to face has also been confirmed: she is just after having kittens. The area is searched, neighbours are called upon, but nobody has heard the small screams of kittens when they are hungry. Options are limited: the lady will have to keep feeding her until she brings her kittens so that all can be neutered and rehomed. That’s the plan anyway, but as we all know, nothing ever goes according to plans!

The weeks pass and the little cat calls down every day for food, but no sign of kittens. And then one evening, on the 8th week, a little head appears from the bushes, and a 2nd, a 3rd, and a 4th! The lady makes contact and trapping is promptly organised so that the kittens can be neutered and we can move onto the 2nd step: rehoming the feline family. However, the kittens are now nine weeks old and have had no human interaction so they are very skittish. Enquiries are made by both the volunteer and the lady and a rescue space is secured for 3 of the kittens so that only one is returned to the mother, making things a little bit easier for the lady who had never made the decision to take on a family of cats.

The friendly mum and her little kitten were advertised for rehoming, but nobody showed any interest. It was the height of kitten season and little balls of fluff could be found anywhere and everywhere and so the grown-up cat and her baby did not stand a chance. It is now October and the lady feels defeated. It is way more than she bargained for when she gave the first piece of chicken to that little hungry cat. All she wanted to do was to help her out, but now she realises that her whole summer has been dictated by the furry being living in her garden. She never made the decision to adopt a cat – she does not even really like cats – someone else did, but she ended up being the one buying food for that hungry mother, being the one who had to make arrangements when she would be gone for more than a day or two… All she wanted was to be kind and do the right thing for this little cat…

Now, let’s go back in time a few months, a year or two maybe. Where did this little cat come from? She was friendly and used to human interaction. A pet left behind, unneutered, when people had to move out? A cute little kitten taken off the pink pages as “free to good home” whose owner had lost interest in when she grew bigger? Or was she dumped by her owners when they realised she was pregnant and they did not want to deal with a litter of kittens? Whichever it is, she was “owned” at one stage and her owners did not take responsibility for her welfare and that of her kittens. Someone else had to pick up the pieces and do the right thing. Yet, they are not the only people responsible for this – or should we say irresponsible? Very likely, she too was rehomed as a little kitten, unneutered, to what seemed like a lovely and caring family. And so the vicious cycle goes, but the only way to break this cycle is by neutering. Everyone thinks they have found the perfect home for the little kittens they are adopting out. Of course it is a good home; it is a lovely family and they will do the right thing and they will have their new little pet neutered. Yet, the little kitten grew up and had kittens. One? Two? More litters? All the excuses in the world can be heard: “she escaped out of the window and when she came back it was too late, the damage was done”; “we decided to let her have just the one litter for the kids to see the miracle of life, but then she got pregnant again before we knew it, it was more than we could cope with”, “ we always found homes for her kittens, so it was ok”, “we didn’t know she could get pregnant at four months old”, “I really wanted to bring her to be neutered, but I didn’t have the money and my car broke down”, and on, and on… And so kittens keep being rehomed unneutered, and so the cycle goes and other are left to pick up the pieces. Meanwhile, kittens keep dying, unseen, because rescues are overloaded, because their mother did not find a kind and caring lady to look after them.

To all of you trying to help kittens, trying to help cats, or just trying to be humane, do the right thing: NEUTER! More and more vets practice early neutering (from as young as 8 weeks old for the most experienced vets), and so kittens can be neutered before being rehomed. This is the only way to break this vicious cycle! If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.

Read more about early neutering here: https://communitycatsnetwork.wordpress.com/information/neutering/

Read-a-thon 2015: Hour 16

” Time spent with a cat is never wasted.” – Colette

Colette

How are you getting on with your reading? Have you begun any new books? Don’t forget to take breaks and eat! Are you alone at home today or do you have the company of your beloved pets? Maybe some family members are around and you’re trying to ignore the noise they are making.

Tell us, how do you prefer to read? Do you prefer to read in peace and solitude? Or do you like to have a bit of background music? Maybe you even enjoy having people around you when reading?

Don’t forget that now is your last chance to register. Click here and follow the simple two steps.

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Read-a-thon 2015: Hour 13

“She was still hugging the cat. ‘Poor slob,’ she said, tickling his head, ‘poor slob without a name. It’s a little inconvenient, his not having a name. But I haven’t any right to give him one: he’ll have to wait until he belongs to somebody. We just sort of took up by the river one day, we don’t belong to each other: he’s an independent, and so am I. I don’t want to own anything until I know I’ve found the place where me and things belong together. I’m not quite sure where that is just yet. But I know what it’s like.’ She smiled, and let the cat drop to the floor. ” – Truman Capote (Breakfast at Tiffany’s)

Capote

Good morning readers! Have you been up all night reading or are you just waking up and having a quick breakfast before you dive into that book again?

CCN Random Fact: Many times, our volunteers have had to help very sick and injured cats for whom there was no other option than euthanizing them. Very often, these cats were named at he last minute of their lives in order to give them a certain dignity…

Tell us, what are your cats’ names? Were you ever inspired by books when naming your cats?

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Read-a-thon: Hour 10

“When a man loves cats, I am his friend and comrade, without further introduction.” – Mark Twain from Who Is Mark Twain?

Twain when-a-man-loves-cats

It is now early morning here in Ireland. You are possibly switching on the kettle, or maybe are you still awake finishing last night’s book, and you will have a little snooze before you start another day of reading.

So why are you doing that? And why do we do what we do? Where is the money you’re raising going to go?

Community Cats Network is a Trap-Neuter-Return organisation. There is a huge problem of cat over-population in Ireland and we believe that by neutering stray and feral cats we can significantly reduce the suffering of many unwanted kittens and cats in general. Although rescuing cats and kittens is a very kind action, it is not actually solving the problem of over-population, whereas by neutering cats and having them monitored, you can effectively prevent much suffering. like everything in these days and ages, neutering cost money and it is a deterrent for people to have the cats they feed neutered. These cats belong to nobody and to everybody at once, but very few are willing to take responsibility for them. Our volunteers have decided to donate their time to help these cats and change people’s attitude towards the neutering of cats; the money you raise with this read-a-thon will go to helping us to have them neutered and cared for.

This weekend we want to celebrate cats, we want to celebrate reading and we invite you to join us in this celebration. You can take part in the event by registering here before noon, you can sponsor our participants, or you can just follow what is going on and interact with us to raise more awareness. Every little helps!

Now, let’s go back to reading and to what the readers who have taken up the challenge are up to!

Tell us, have you been reading non-stop so far? Or have you had a little catnap or a proper sleep before getting back to reading?

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Read-a-thon 2015: Hour 7

“Holding this soft, small living creature in my lap this way, though, and seeing how it slept with complete trust in me, I felt a warm rush in my chest. I put my hand on the cat’s chest and felt his heart beating. The pulse was faint and fast, but his heart, like mine, was ticking off the time allotted to his small body with all the restless earnestness of my own.” – Haruki Murakami from The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

haruki-murakami-cat

We are getting late into the night now and what better author than Haruki Murakami to accompany us at this late hour? Are you feeling tired yet? Are you still reading or have you just woken up and seeing this post after a few hour sleep?

Tell us, would you often keep wake all night to finish a book? What books have kept you awake? What about now? Are you still reading the same book or have you switched to some lighter reading?

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Read-a-thon 2015: Hour 4

“`we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.’

`How do you know I’m mad?’ said Alice.

`You must be,’ said the Cat, `or you wouldn’t have come here.’

Alice didn’t think that proved it at all; however, she went on `And how do you know that you’re mad?’

`To begin with,’ said the Cat, `a dog’s not mad. You grant that?’

`I suppose so,’ said Alice.

`Well, then,’ the Cat went on, `you see, a dog growls when it’s angry, and wags its tail when it’s pleased. Now I growl when I’m pleased, and wag my tail when I’m angry. Therefore I’m mad.'”

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Cheshire cat

Hourly_Bookmark_Knitted_R02Are you mad to have taken up this challenge? No you’re not, you just like reading and want to help cats.

To show that we appreciate your support, we have a prize to offer: a lovely hand-knitted bookmark donated by Beryl Burgess (who makes the popular furry friends). Anybody who has registered before 12pm (GMT) today (the 21st) can enter the competition by answering the question below in the comment section here or on the event Facebook page. We will draw a winner at 9pm tonight.

Who is your favourite feline book character and why?

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Read-a-thon 2015: Hour 2

“What greater gift than the love of a cat” – Charles Dickens

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Bleak House by Charles Dickens – Illustration by Richard Gorey

You have now been reading for two hours and we hope you are enjoying it. Are you still reading the same book or are you diversifying? It is still early in the night if you are in Ireland and you are probably not feeling tired yet, but pace yourself and have breaks as you may tire as the hours go by…

Random fact: Did you know that Charles Dickens had a cat called Bob? When Bob died in 1862 he got one of his paws stuffed and turned it into letter-opener.

Now, tell us, where are you reading? Are you cosy in front of the fire? Lying in bed? Sitting at the kitchen table?

Keep an eye on this page as there will be some spot prizes up for grab! And if you haven’t registered yet but want to join us for the weekend, you can still do so here.

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Read-a-thon 2015: Ready? Steady… Read!

“A cat has absolute emotional honesty: human beings, for one reason or another, may hide their feelings, but a cat does not.” Ernest Hemingway

Hemingway

This is hour zero of our Readathon 2015. You are now making yourself comfortable and picking up the first book you will be reading this weekend. Have you planned all your reads for the weekend or will you go with the flow? Will you be reading one book after another or switch books according to your mood? Do you have a nice cuppa ready, some food at hand and are you comfortably settled? Well, let’s read so!

Tell us, what is the first book you are about to read?

Here are a few handy survive (and thrive) tips offered by Dewey’s 24 hour Read-a-thon.

We would like to thank the participants who are taking up this challenge to raise fund for stray and feral cat: Shauna, who is reading from Cork; Pauline, who is also reading from Cork and Hope, who is reading from Mallow. Give them a little encouragement as they are about to start their challenge and you can also sponsor them on their fundraising pages! And if you are tempted to join them, it is not too late to register, go quickly to our registration page and follow the two easy steps. It’s free and it’s all for a good cause!

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To the Unnamed Kittens, Killed on the Roads

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Finding dead kittens on the road is unfortunately a too familiar sight. Each time though, my throat tightens.
This little man wasn’t dead though. The woman who found him said he was trying to crawl, but could not use his back legs. How many people passed and saw him without stopping?
She picked him up and brought him to her shed before ringing Breda, who rushed to him despite being expected at work. Annie and Breda found the kitten where the woman had told them he would be. He was cold, so they wrapped him in a towel and Annie held him close to her on the way to my house. Annie may only be 6 years old, but she knows the realities of life. She handed me the kitten with a serene dignity.
I held him and touched his back legs. There was no response; he didn’t seem to feel anything on the rump either. I didn’t have any hope for him and just wanted to stop his pain. His breathing started to become worse and I guessed I wouldn’t even have time to bring him to the vet on-call in Youghal to end his suffering kindly. I believe this is the most distressing, feeling helpless. His breathing slowed down and then he gave a final, very soft sigh. I was holding him in my arms, close to my heart. This is probably the only consolation, that he didn’t die alone, on the side of the road.
I wrapped him up in a white sheet and buried him in the garden, next to the fern plant. I don’t believe in heaven, don’t believe in the rainbow bridge, but I believe in giving them some dignity when they live this planet we all share.
Sleep tight little man x