Monday, 25 July 2011

My day off work

Mary Wood, Coordinator of the Cheltenham Branch, gives us an insight into the day off of a typical Cats Protection volunteer...

8am Cats Protection van is dropped off at my house by our volunteer driver John as he is going on holiday.

8.30am Cleaned out the pen where I have four nine-week-old kittens. It's like painting the Forth Bridge! By the time I have finished, they have upset their biscuits, paddled in the water and all used the clean litter tray!

10am Make some phone calls to potential homes passed on from our Kitten Officer. One couple are very keen and come over straight away to view the kittens. 

12.30pm Call into our branch shop to catch up with Margaret the manager and her team, have a cuppa and buy a lovely new handbag. Margaret is a very good saleswoman as I didn’t even need a new handbag!

2pm Feed the kittens in the pen and retrieve a selection of toys from a now-empty water bowl. Meet with one of our vets to discuss holding our first Homing Day.

3.30pm Take the aforementioned kittens to my local vets for their first vaccinations. Have to book a double appointment to make time for all the paperwork and for the vets to have a cuddle with the kittens.

4.15pm Back home again. Follow up some leads from another branch regarding a good source of new goods to sell at our events – in addition to those from CP – and ask for some samples and price list to be sent. Start to make a list of volunteer roles that we need to fill and adapt job descriptions ready for recruitment drive.

5.30pm Take a call from my friend Jenny who is also Homing and Welfare Officer. She informs me she has had a call from someone who has found five kittens in a shed with no sign of mum, so I take the van with a trap and basket, pick up Jenny and go round to investigate. Leave a trap in the shed to try to catch the mother cat.

6.30pm Back to the vets again! The kittens are basically healthy but covered in fleas and ticks so, after a health check and lots of parasite treatment, back they come with me to a kitten cage in my dining room whilst we find a more permanent space for them – although two have stayed to join my clan.

7pm Clean out the kittens in the pen again. More paddling and throwing of food...

7.30pm Time for a nice glass of wine with dinner and sort out my clothes for work tomorrow after my relaxing day off...

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Neutering Manager, Teacher, or Celeb hunter?….

Neutering Manager, Ian MacFarlaine tells us about his role at Cats Protection

Now and again a few weeks roll by which are truly crazy and this has just been the case for me as Cats Protection’s Neutering Manager. We ended June with glorious sunshine and are now in late July and soaked in torrential rain.


Sometimes it feels like I am more of a teacher than a neutering manager! During June and July though, I thoroughly enjoyed providing training sessions for overseas animal welfare workers in London, european vets in Austria, and volunteers and staff within CP too, and hundreds of CP volunteers will have given up even more of their own time to come along to training sessions in Reading, Coventry, Grimsby and here at the NCC. Providing guidance and education on the neutering and care of feral cats, both within and outside CP, is a really important part of my role, as this group of cats is one of the most vulnerable to mishandling and stress

Shortly into July we finalised our total of cats neutered in 2010 with CP’s help. Last year, in the face of huge challenges (such as the impact of VAT rises), and an increased demand on our neutering service as more people are in financial difficulty, we increased our total to 176,366 cats – almost 14,000 more than 2009. This is a real tribute to the hard work of our volunteers and our staff right across the charity, in increasing this total despite the odds. We’re not letting the grass grow under our feet in 2011, with more than 92,000 cats having been neutered by mid July. Our neutering is a real team effort, and as well as getting out and about to plan a future neutering drive in Stoke On Trent, I also took advantage of the sunshine to visit some of the other charities who help us deliver our neutering work, in Mid-Wales, Birmingham, Staffordshire, and Lancashire.

Our small Neutering Support Team at the NCC rarely get the chance for long meetings as they are occupied in responding to around 170 calls and emails from cat owners and neutering scheme partners every day. We got a rare chance to switch the phones off for a few hours so that we could have a think about what we could do better in the way we respond to our customers. We have an amazing staff team working on neutering at the NCC, and in field, and our day was really productive. The following day at our AGM I was even more overwhelmed by the progress many of our volunteers have made in persuading their vets to neuter cats early, really hitting home the prevention aspect of our Neutering programme.

And away from work? Well I got the chance to see my favourite band in Camden, who rarely visit the UK these days. Not only that, but I got to meet some of them (and a few other celebs) afterwards…. and while we were there took the opportunity to persuade them to support CP by contributing to our Celebrity Paws auction later this year. I don’t think they thought I was too strange! So don’t forget to check out the CP website for details of all our fundraising activities.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Cats Protection AGM

Cats Protection's Chief Executive Peter Hepburn offers an insight into the planning behind the charity's AGM.

I met with many of the other animal charities recently at the Association of Dogs and Cats Homes (ADCH). The charities do work well together in our sector, which is so important. We carry out a huge variety of local joint work right across the country. Our supporters expect that, and I’m sure that the animals benefit. Nick Edmans, our Director of Communications came with me as Cats Protection will be hosting a major animal welfare conference next year and we wanted to promote the event and consult others on the content.

Now we have the AGM coming up at the National Cat Centre on Saturday 16 July. To save on costs and time we also have meetings of our Board of Trustees and Council on the Friday and Saturday morning. They are all volunteers and have to arrange for their branch work etc to keep going when they come to visit the centre. It will be a busy time, with lots of people coming here from right across the country. Great!

Then on Sunday there will be a Summer Fun Day here, run by the National Cat Adoption Centre. I keep hearing snippets about it… who’s got a gazebo we can borrow? Here’s a bottle for the stall…. have you really got a bouncy castle, tractor rides, face painting and a dance troupe all happening? Awesome! The answer to that one was yes, and more!  The cat care folk will be doing tours of the centre all weekend. We hope that it’ll mean we find some more homes. Homing could do with a boost at the moment. There are so many lovely cats who would be made so happy if they can get into a home. It breaks my heart.

Anyway, it will be a busy time and I know I’ll see lots of good friends of the charity...

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

The making of Tennis cats

Lee Bishop, Website Manager at the National Cat Centre gets creative…

Hopefully, most of you will have had the chance to check out the new Cats Protection viral video Tennis cats on YouTube – if not, why not? Click here to see it now!

But how did it come about and what on earth were we thinking?

Working at Cats Protection means you need to at least try to turn your hand to anything. With this mantra, I decided to have a go at drawing the storyboard calling on long ago forgotten Art GCSE skills. This acted as an essential guide to which props we’d have to source and the location that we would shoot at. With a budget of around zero pounds, we begged tennis rackets from colleagues and the tennis courts of a local kindly posh hotel. The great British summer had other ideas…

On the morning of the shoot it was monsoon-like and, after an hour of crossed fingers and sheltering in cars, we accepted defeat. Unfortunately the hotel tennis court was booked up for the next few weeks so with Wimbledon looming, we had to lower our expectations, buy a cheap tennis net and pick a sunny day at the National Cat Centre to film in one of the adjoining fields.

You’ll notice that we dubbed most of the sound effects over the top. This is for two reasons – firstly, while the day was sunny, it was also rather breezy which obviously upset the microphone. Secondly, watching your normally soberly dressed colleagues dive about in full cat costumes is unremittingly funny and my uncontrolled laughter would have been clearly audible!

With the filming ‘in the can’ – or rather on the tape as was the case –  it was over to our budding Sofia Coppola, Amy to cut all the footage together into something presentable which, considering my rudimentary directing skills, was no mean feat!

Once the final cut was down, we set about recording the cats’ grunts and of course, Cat Pash’s inspired – and occasionally rambling – commentary. This really pulled the whole thing together and helped turn a rather unfathomable video into a…erm… slightly less unfathomable one.

With the vid released just in time for Murray’s big match we were pleased with the result, but one question remained. Which sport for the next one?