Leading pro-Life animal rescue and veterinary charity based in Sunnydale in Cape Town, TEARS Animal Rescue, has launched a fundraising campaign ahead of Christmas to raise R500,000.00 and highlight the plight of the City’s abandoned and forgotten community cats.
While TEARS sterilises and vaccinates approximately 250 community and homeless cats every month through its Community Cat Project, TEARS Operations Manager, Mandy Store stresses that there is a critical need for Government and animal welfare organisations to provide a sustained and humane solution to an issue that is marginalised and misunderstood. While it’s impossible to determine how many feral and abandoned domestic cats live in Cape Town, Store confirms that TEARS and its Mobile Clinic team receive up to 10 telephone calls every day about stray or community cats or kittens that need rescuing.
“Since the onset of COVID19, many pet owners and families that are struggling financially, have surrendered their animals to TEARS. While many strays are lost pets that were not kept properly indoors or provided with adequate identification, many are simply abandoned and expected to fend for themselves. This is especially true for cats, “ explains Store.
TEARS is one of a few animal welfare charities that has been practising a humane Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) Programme since 2007 as a solution for community cats via the TEARS Veterinary Community Clinic in Cape Town’s Southern Peninsula.
TEARS Co-Founder and Director, Marilyn Hoole, who has been a passionate crusader for community cats for the last two decades believes that more and more domestic cats are ending up abandoned and on the streets because their owners either move away or can no longer look after them.
“Thanks to the funding we receive annually from The Marchig Animal Welfare Trust and the dedicated team of volunteers who provide monitoring and feeding support to approximately 500 community cats, we have been able to positively impact the lives of thousands of community cats by providing a sterilisation and vaccination service that enables them to enjoy a quality of life that they would otherwise never experience. Unfortunately however, we are only reaching a fraction of the number of cats that are living desperate lives, forgotten and without hope,” says Hoole.
Domesticated cats that have integrated with existing community cat colonies (there are an average of 10 to 15 cats in a colony), as a result of abandonment or abuse, succeed in diluting the feral gene-pool which makes these types of cats extremely shy, and increase the potential for these cats to be socialised and rehomed. Left to fend for themselves, and without sterilisation and vaccination, community cat colonies can quickly increase in population size and will ultimately either succumb to contagious and deadly diseases like Feline Leukaemia and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (cat FIV), or die from lack of food and malnutrition.
While law enforcement is mandated to collect healthy stray animals, residents who call to complain about a stray cat or cats in the area, are generally told to try and trap or confine the animal themselves. This is not an easy task, and in many instances TEARS has been called too late to rescue cats that have been poisoned or shot by pellet guns.
“There seems to be a negative stigma and perception that feral cats are ‘wild’ or aggressive, which is untrue. The term ‘feral’ simply means that these types of cats are undomesticated and as a result are generally afraid of people. It’s unfortunate that people don’t appreciate the valuable service provided by community cats as they control the population of rodents and other vermin that carry disease and have the potential to damage property and contaminate food,” comments Store.
TEARS asserts that while there are many animal welfare organisations that capture and euthanize community and feral cats, its neither a sustainable nor a humane solution. Sooner or later the empty habitat will either be overrun by other less beneficial species, like rats, or will be replaced by community cats from other colonies. The vacuum effect is a globally recognised scientific phenomenon that can be applied to all types of animal species.
TEARS Head of Fundraising, Lara Van Rensburg summarises, “Our goal of raising R500 000 is an ambitious but critical one. It will literally change the lives of 1000 community cats and kittens over the course of the next four months. We’re appealing to the public to support this campaign, which we appreciate is one of many in terms of the massive need that exists in the non-profit and animal welfare sectors. However, donating to a worthy cause in lieu of gifting someone a present that is unlikely to change the world is a great way to embrace this Season of giving back. Every donation we receive, no matter how small, will help TEARS extend its Trap-Neuter-Return Programme in the areas where it’s most needed and end the suffering of hundreds of kittens born to abandoned and feral cats this Christmas.”
Sterilisation and vaccination is a simple, essential and cost effective solution that succeeds in ending the cycle of over-population, illness, starvation and suffering that so many community cats are trapped in.