Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Operation success for adorable Alan

Staff at Cats Protection’s Exeter Axhayes Adoption Centre are delighted by the public’s response to an appeal for help to give a cat a much-needed operation.

Adorable ginger tom Alan
Alan is an adorable cat who is looking for a home after his operation
Eight-year-old moggy Alan was brought to the centre when his elderly owner moved into a nursing home. Staff at the centre could see that Alan had a very infected ear, which started haemorrhaging upon examination. Further tests by a vet revealed Alan needed a life-saving surgical TECA operation (Total Ear Canal Ablation).

“The total cost of Alan’s operation is £550,” says Phil Punnett, Deputy Manager at Exeter Axhayes Adoption Centre. “It is a vital operation for Alan and, although it will leave him deaf in one ear, he will otherwise be able to lead a normal life as he looks for a new home.

“We decided to start an appeal to help us cover the cost. Vet bills are, of course, one of our biggest outgoings and we receive no government funding. Just like all the other cats that come to us, Alan’s welfare is of the utmost importance and we are committed to giving each cat whatever they need.”

Phil started an appeal on JustGiving and promoted it on the centre’s Facebook page.

“We received over £300 within 24 hours which is just amazing,” says Phil. “We are now just over £700! We are just delighted. The extra money raised will of course go to other cats and kittens that need our care”.

Lovely cat Alan

Alan’s operation took place on 16 June and was a big success.

“We want to say a huge thank you to everyone that has donated. We couldn’t care for as many cats and kittens that desperately need it without the help of kind members of the public.”

Once Alan is over his operation he will be available for rehoming.

“Alan is a very affectionate boy who likes nothing more than a cuddle and a lap to sit on,” says Phil. “We hope he finds that loving forever home he deserves once he has recovered.”

To help more cats in need of veterinary treatment like Alan  please visit www.justgiving.com/adorable-alan-appeal or to find out more about adopting Alan or any of the cats at the centre please visit www.axhayes.cats.org.uk

Friday, 26 June 2015

A day in the life of a publicity volunteer

This post has been written by Adrian Ragucos, Publicity Team Leader for the Brighton & District Branch of Cats Protection

Hello! My role at the Brighton Branch of Cats Protection is to try and make sure that what we publish on our website, on social media, or in any other publication fits the overall message that the branch and Cats Protection is trying to deliver.

Publicity volunteer Adrian Ragucos
Adrian with his cats Cedric (left) and Lolita (right)
I've been volunteering for Cats Protection since I put my name down at the Brighton open day just over a year ago. How time has flown! Choosing to volunteer for Cats Protection was a no-brainer as soon as the formation of a new branch in Brighton was announced. I was already very interested in cat welfare being the owner of two cats, and was also wanting to do some volunteering in some capacity, so the timing couldn't have been better. I was initially interested in being the branch Web Editor, but put myself forward for the Publicity Team Leader role when nobody else took it on.

I work closely with my awesome team colleague Tiffany to keep our online presence fresh and up-to-date. My day job is as a web developer (in other words, I code websites for a living), so I'm called on to do the more technical side of things, whereas Tiffany is a whiz on the social side of things. I've added a fair bit of code to the branch website to get things looking how we want, and spent many a night designing posters and newspaper adverts in Photoshop to publicise available volunteer roles or events like our pub quizzes. I also carry out technical housekeeping on internal branch matters, like adding new volunteers to the group email address. It all sounds very geeky, but that's my nature and hopefully CP benefits from that!

I couldn't say that there is a typical day or week as the Publicity Team Leader! It varies wildly, depending on what events we have going on or what we need to publicise. We do have a few daily 'rituals' like replying to emails, Facebook messages and Twitter tweets, but what we do ultimately depends on so many other things. I could be putting up a sad but necessary missing cat post on Facebook one day, and live posting during one of our pub quizzes the next.

We also aim to write a post for our blog at least every Wednesday, and we often have one or two more posts added in addition. These are usually related to cat welfare (but can also announce competition winners or volunteer profiles), so we have to make sure that the information is accurate and not misleading. A lot of time is put into each blog post through researching, writing and proofing!

Above all, the key thing we try and do is to be informative and easy to understand. We know that we have a very varied audience with different reasons for visiting our site or Facebook or Twitter pages; we just want to make sure that our work is understood and seen by as many people as possible.

There have been so many highlights in the 13 months since Brighton & District Branch launched and it's impossible to list them all. Building a strong online presence has been both a highlight and a challenge; we've done really well to get an accessible website going, and it's lovely to have some dedicated followers on social media, but it's important for us to keep this going for as long as possible. That being said, announcing the moment we first rehomed a cat is a fond memory, for both myself and the branch.

The most challenging thing about the role is finding the time to be on top of things and reply to anyone who has asked for advice in a timely manner. Both Tiffany and I have full-time day jobs, and we find ourselves dedicating the time before work starts, lunch breaks and even whole evenings to the role! It isn't a bad thing by any means, especially as it means we are constructively helping cats in Brighton (and not just watching cat videos on YouTube!). Working in an online role is certainly not for the faint-hearted!

My advice to anyone thinking of volunteering is:

  • try and get to know the people you'll be volunteering with. You may find that they have knowledge that could help you out in your role, and that always makes things a lot easier
  • remember why you're volunteering. Hopefully, you'll be doing it for a cause that is close to your heart – what may seem like the most trivial thing often isn't to someone else (or often in our case, a very needy cat), and it's the greatest feeling when you see your efforts work out!
  • most of all, do it!

To find Cats Protection volunteer roles near you use our Find an opportunity search.

Monday, 22 June 2015

Flying across the Tyne for Cats Protection

This post has been written by Rob Gillie, Regional Development Manager, Yorkshire and the North East of Cats Protection

The East Northumberland and Gateshead & District Branches of Cats Protection have joined forces to raise funding to support their work in the north east of England.

The partnership between the two branches started last year when branch volunteers came together to collect donations at performances of Cats, the musical, at the Theatre Royal in Newcastle (see a photo of the volunteers here).

Earlier this year Joanne McPherson, Regional Fundraising Manager, identified an ideal fundraising opportunity by taking places in the Zip Slide UK event on 6-7 June.

Both branches promoted places at the event on their Facebook pages and their websites. The branches attracted supporters to sign up for the event, including some branch volunteers but most were people who wanted to support the branches by taking part in an adrenaline-filled activity. Each ‘zip slider’ agreed to raise at least £80 for the branch (although in reality the average raised was more than double this figure).

Joanne persuaded me to take part too! I also signed up my daughter, Rachel, to take part and provide me with much needed moral support.

On the weekend of the event a zip wire was attached to the Newcastle side of the iconic Tyne Bridge and stretched across the River Tyne to the Gateshead bank of the river. The zip wire dropped 30 metres and was 300 metres long and participants would be flying across the Tyne at around 25 miles per hour.

Volunteers were on hand at the weekend to welcome participants and they were joined by Regional Fundraising Managers Joanne McPherson and Emily Casson. Joanne’s partner, Norm, was the photographer for the day to capture the heroic feats.

Rachel and I arrived on Saturday amid high winds and ominous cloudy skies. This matched my mood… I was not looking forward to the event as I am terrified of heights!

Fundraisers getting ready to take the plunge
Rob (third from right) and other fundraisers getting ready to take the plunge
I was kitted up in my harness and hard-hat and walked to the top of the bridge to take my turn. On reaching the front of the queue I had to climb a step ladder to be attached to the zip wire before sitting on the hand rail of the bridge with my legs dangling towards the Tyne below. I just thought ‘What on earth am I doing here?’

At the allotted time I was told to push my shoulders forward and then I was away, with a sudden jerk as the wire took up my weight, followed by the sensation of flying before landing with a jolt at the platform below. The feeling of flying through the air was fantastic, although I have to admit I tried not to look down!

Rachel said that I was as white as a sheet when I finished. But when I heard that someone had dropped out in the afternoon I actually agreed to do the slide again with Rachel and CP supporters. I am terrified of heights so if I can do this anyone can!

Emma Seed zip wiring across the River Tyne for Cats Protection
Fundraiser Emma Seed; photo courtesy of editpostphotography.co.uk 
In total 30 people signed up to raise much needed funds for Cats Protection. The amount raised so far is a staggering £5,407 plus an additional Gift Aid of £990.83 – and there’s still more to come!

Prior to the event two women dropped out as they found out they were expecting (what some people will do to avoid a zip slide!) but their sponsors were happy for the donations to still go to CP. Two supporters from the Wear Valley & Darlington Branch were able to take up these places at short notice and managed to raise an amazing £718 between them.

This is the first time that CP has taken part in an event like this in the North East. Due to the success places have been booked for the next event which will be on 31 October. This coincides with the week of National Black Cat Day (Cats Protection’s annual celebration of black and black-and-white cats) so if you would like to dress up as a black cat and fly across the Tyne please get in touch by emailing Joanne McPherson on joanne.mcpherson@cats.org.uk

Friday, 19 June 2015

Why it’s important to microchip your cat

June is National Microchipping Month and the ideal opportunity to get your cat microchipped, if it isn’t already. Microchipping is the most effective way of identifying a lost pet – microchips are permanent and can’t come off like a collar.

Each microchip has a unique ID number which is stored on a national database. If a lost cat is found and the chip is scanned, it will then reveal the owner's name and address from the database's records and the cat can be reunited.

Cats Protection is a member of the Microchipping Alliance which campaigned to make microchipping compulsory for dogs. Thanks to this work, all dogs in England will have to be microchipped by April 2016. We also raise public awareness of the benefits of microchipping to cats and other companion animals. We’d like to see regulations to introduce compulsory microchipping of all owned cats.

As well as helping to reunite lost pets with their owners, microchips are also useful for identification in and around the home. The SureFlap Cat Flap, for example, helps to stop intruder cats from coming into your home as it’ll only open for programmed microchips.

SureFlap Microchip Cat Flap

Similarly, the SureFeed Microchip Pet Feeder will only open when it recognises the correct cat’s microchip and then closes when they have finished eating. This makes it ideal for cats on special diets or on medication as it stops other pets from eating their food.

SureFeed Microchip Pet Feeder

If you are looking to buy a cat flap or microchip feeder, why not purchase it through SureFlap and support Cats Protection while doing so? Visit www.sureflap.com and enter the code CP20 in the discount box at the checkout. The code will give you a £5 discount off the Microchip Cat Flap, £6.25 off the DualScan Microchip Cat Flap, £7.50 off the Microchip Pet Door or £7.50 off a Microchip Pet Feeder. For every feeder sold SureFlap makes a donation to Cats Protection.

Read more about microchipping here.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Diary of a teenage fosterer #3

This post has been written by Tristan Goodway-Sims who is undertaking a volunteer placement for a Duke of Edinburgh award

My last blog post ended with the perils of kitten worming when they were three weeks old.  As the weeks have gone on, the kittens are sleeping less and playing more and everything has become livelier.  I have made our spare pen into a kitten pen and at the moment the kittens spend very short periods in here separate from their mum, Honey, to encourage them to try some wet kitten food (which I smash up well with the back of a fork). Honey doesn’t seem at all fazed when the kittens are removed as she can still see and smell them.  My mum joked that Honey has the same look on her face that she did when my sister and I used to go over to our nan’s house.  I can’t think what she means!

Charlotte cuddling kittens
Tristan's sister Charlotte having a kitten cuddle
I have made the separate kitten pen as interesting as I can for them and it’s amazing how much fun kittens can have with assorted sized cardboard boxes with holes cut in them. The kittens are so much fun to watch now as they explore everything. Even the water dish is a source of fascination with tiny paws being dipped in and one particular kitten (Herbie) launching himself into the water bowl like Tom Daly at the Olympics. He then just sits there as if he is in a jacuzzi.

Kitten hiding

The boys are particularly keen on trying the wet kitten food. As soon as the kittens have had a manic play and a nibble at the food dish they are returned to Honey and they usually fall asleep. I have quickly learned that kittens are either wide awake or fast asleep with nothing in between, so one minute they can be playing like energetic kids and the next minute they’re fast asleep. I have therefore found kittens fast asleep in strange places including the food bowl (with dry food stuck to their face), in the cat litter tray and in our magazine rack!

Black kittens playing with a cardboard box

Curious kitten playing

We have all enjoyed handling the kittens and playing with them in the evenings. Everyone has been inventive with homemade toys as well as bought ones. Scrunched up tissue paper is a favourite, as well as paper that rustles in a cardboard box. Their favourite bought toy is a ball with a bell in it which they boot to each other in a team formation using some impressive paw and claw work.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

‘Does my indoor cat need neutering?’ and other FAQs

Do you need advice on cat care? You have the opportunity to ask Cats Protection experts directly during our live Facebook Q&As. This week saw Neutering Manager Jane Clements taking questions – below lists just a few she answered.

Question: My male kitten is 10 weeks old. What are the benefits of neutering for him and at what age should I be booking him in? He is the only animal in the house.

Answer: Kittens can be neutered from four months old and you can find your nearest vet on our Kitten Neutering Database. Neutering will protect him from some cancers later in life, prevent him roaming to find a mate and therefore potentially being hurt in a road traffic accident. Neutering also helps to prevent spraying and fighting behaviours.

Neutering scar
A neutering scar. Photo: CP Library
Question: I have a female cat, when we took her to the vets they predicted her age to be around six or seven years. I don’t know if she’s been neutered, the previous owners did not supply me with any vaccination paperwork. She's an indoor cat and thus doesn't go out, do we still need to get her neutered?

Answer: You may have already seen or will see some 'calling' behaviours which would indicate she is coming into season and therefore not been neutered. Your vet may also be able to see if there is evidence of a scar from her neutering operation.

Although she will be staying in, there are other health benefits for her, such as being less likely to contract diseases such as FIV and FeLV spread by bites and mating behaviour, and she’ll be unable to develop cancer of the ovaries or uterus. You can find out more of the benefits by reading our Neutering leaflet.

Your vet will be able to give you advice with regards to finding out if she has already been neutered and potentially having the procedure done.

Question: My cat recently gave birth to kittens that are now around three weeks old. When can the mum be neutered?

Answer: It is possible for mum to be neutered now, however your vet will decide whether to neuter now or wait until the kittens are weaned. It is important that you keep her in at the moment, as she will be able to get pregnant again.

Please note that we are unable to give specific advice on your cat's health or any change in behaviour observed. For medical problems consult your vet who will have access to your cat’s medical history and will be able to examine them. You’ll find more information about cat care and behaviour here.

Would you like to ask one of our feline experts a question about your cat? Don’t miss the next live Facebook Q&A sessions: Behaviour expert Nicky Trevorrow will be offering advice on 2 July; vet Vanessa Howie will be answering questions on 16 July; while Neutering Manager Jane Clements will be back on 30 July. Every live Q&A is held on our national Facebook page from 2-3pm.

Monday, 15 June 2015

Going the distance for Cats Protection

This post has been written by supporter Adrian Keeble

As a cat lover I have always been surrounded by cats. There has never been a day when there hasn't been a cat in our family. This year I am combining my love for cats with my passion for running and raising money for Cats Protection by running an organised half marathon every month throughout 2015.

I've been playing various sports since I was old enough to stand up and I get involved in anything, especially running, swimming and football. I took up running seriously in my 20s as I find it is the best form of exercise to improve your fitness. Your joints may not think so but to get and stay fit it has to be running.

In my 30s I started to suffer with back problems. Yes, all that sport, military service and a sedentary job took its toll. Eventually my back said ‘enough’ and about four years ago I ended up with three prolapsed discs. I spent four months hunched over and unable to stand up straight or walk without the aid of walking sticks. I was only 41.

A year of therapy finally resulted in an operation to repair the damage. The long road to recovery was about to begin… although I didn't have too much time to spend on that specific road. In 2013 I was deployed as an Army Reservist to Afghanistan, based at Camp Bastion. I had a six-month tour ahead of me. Luckily I was able to concentrate on my fitness during some down time and found my running ability starting to improve.

I returned home and in 2014 started running again seriously – something I hadn't been able to do for about five years. At the end of the year I completed both the Bournemouth and Las Vegas marathons. Something I thought I would never be doing again after my injuries. I was thankful for the second chance I had been given and decided to use my good fortune for the benefit of others.  I therefore came up with my current challenge. I wanted an event that would be both physically and mentally challenging. A half marathon didn't seem enough, I wanted one every month for a year. As well as having to keep myself physically fit I also have the logistical challenge of making sure I can actually achieve the challenge; enter each event, get to each event and be prepared when things go wrong.

The problem with a challenge like this is that if I miss one race the whole challenge has failed. So far I am half way through and everything has gone well without too many problems. It is actually quite difficult to find a half marathon being run somewhere every month! The summer months aren't too bad but January and December have proved problematical. The race in January was in Kent, it was a trail race for 13.1 miles. That means hills and tracks… and mud, lots of it. What a way to start! But I finished it and I haven’t looked back since.

Adrian Keeble running a half marathon for Cats Protection
Adrian running the recent Bedgebury half marathon
I'm hoping to raise £1,000 for Cats Protection this year, specifically the Haslemere Branch. I am paying all my expenses and race fees myself. Therefore any money raised is going straight to Cats Protection. You can donate via my JustGiving page at www.justgiving.com/adrian-keeble or text AKCP96 £5 to 70070. Any donation is gratefully received.

As I stated earlier I love cats and anything I can do to help improve the lives of cats is fantastic. I have two fantastic adorable moggies myself; Dylan and Daisy. Cats Protection is a fantastic organisation in my view and I hope the small sum I can raise will go a long way to improving the welfare of our feline friends.

This post has been written by a guest blogger. The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect the views of Cats Protection. 

Friday, 12 June 2015

A muddy sprint for cats

A trio of dedicated cat lovers recently took part in a muddy challenge to raise money for the Rayleigh Castle Point & District Branch of Cats Protection.

On 19 April, branch volunteers Karen, Mel and her brother Mark competed in the Xtreme Endurance Race Mud Run in Chelmsford, Essex. They ran, waded and climbed their way around 7km of obstacles through gallons of mud for two hours, all to raise funds to help cats in the branch’s care.

Getting ready for a mud run for Cats Protection
Getting ready
Cats Protection mud run
A bit muddy!
The team raised over £500 for the branch – well done and thank you very much!

It’s not too late to donate, you can sponsor Karen, Mel and Mark at https://www.justgiving.com/Rayleigh-Cats-Protection12 or text to donate on 70070, the code is RCAT62 £1, £2, £3, £4, £5 or £10.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Fancy fostering cats?

Cats Protection branches don’t have physical locations and are run by volunteers who carry out their roles from their own homes. So we rely on fosterers to care for cats in their own homes too, giving cats in need a temporary home, love, care and affection until they find a new family.

Fostering a cat can be an extremely rewarding experience – and our fosterers contribute to helping the thousands of cats that are in the care of Cats Protection at any one time.

Find out more about what’s involved in becoming a cat fosterer by watching this video:

If you’re interested in fostering for Cats Protection, look for volunteering opportunities near you using this link or find contact details for your local branch here.

Friday, 5 June 2015

‘How much food should I give my kitten?’ and other feline diet questions

Are you concerned about your cat’s weight? Do you have a question about your cat’s diet? You’re in the right place! Yesterday Cats Protection vet Vanessa Howie hosted a live Q&A with our Facebook supporters, taking questions about cats and their weight, food and diet.

We've picked out just a few of the questions she answered:

Question: I have adopted a one-year-old female cat; she is a bit fussy and won't eat any dried food at all – any suggestions please? My last girl was on dried food only but I'd quite like her to have a mixture. Thank you!

Answer: Unfortunately some cats may just prefer wet food to dry food. You could try adding small amounts of dry food to her wet food and mixing it in thoroughly. If she starts eating this then slowly increase the amount of dry food over time. Alternatively try wetting the dry food to make it soft. If she starts eating it this way you can slowly reduce how much water you add until she accepts it dry. Good luck!

Polydactyl kitten
Polydactyl kitten. Photo by Meg Sheppard via Facebook
Question: Hi Vanessa, my polydactyl kitten (pictured above) is eight months old. We feed him dry food but he has put on a bit of weight on his belly. How much food should we be giving him? I feel like we hardly give him any but he's still a bit chubby!

Answer: The food that you're using will have feeding guidance on the packet and may even come with a measuring cup. I'd recommend that you go by these instructions as how much you feed depends on which food you are using. Ensure that you continue with a kitten food until he is 12 months old before changing over to an adult food.

Question: Hi Vanessa, my cats are on a mostly wet food diet but do have a bowl of dry food that they go to in between meals and water. Sometimes I get the little grass pots for them to munch on too, and I give them cat milk and treats once in a while! Is this a good set up? I try to vary their diet but I'm not sure if that's the best thing to do?

Answer: The combination of foods you are feeding sounds ok. Ensure that you follow the packaging guidance on how much to feed and adjust the wet and dry quantities accordingly. This may be difficult to calculate if different brands of food are used and you may have to adjust amounts fed based on weight loss or gain. Cats don't necessarily need variation in their diet though, it's more of a human thing.

Ginger cat with dried food
Photo by irrational_cat via flickr / Creative Commons
Question: I have a cat, Jacob, that I feed a special renal diet due to his chronic kidney disease. My other two cats are young and healthy and on a normal diet. One of them, Mia, will only snack on biscuits through the day and she doesn't like wet food. This being the case it's easy enough to feed wet food separately but 'normal' biscuits have to be left around all day for Mia – but then Jacob snacks on them too. How much harm will this cause him?

Answer: The renal diet that you are feeding Jacob will have lower protein and phosphorous levels to help his kidneys. The occasional snack on 'normal' biscuits is likely to have little effect, but more regular eating may be detrimental. Microchip feeders may be something to consider – they will only allow access to the food bowl if it recognises the microchip (ie you could set it up so it’ll only open for one of your cats).

Follow this link for a discount code for Sureflap's SureFeed Microchip Feeder.

Question: My cat is 18 years old and of late he will not eat his food. Do you have any information on the please?

Answer: There are many reasons why an older cat may go off their food. I would recommend that you get him checked over by your vet to rule these out. Common causes may include tooth and mouth problems or other illnesses. Older cats sense of smell and taste may also diminish, so providing smelly foods may encourage him to eat. You might find it useful to read our Elderly cats leaflet which contains more information.

Question: Do you have any advice on restricting feeding in a multi-cat household? I currently free feed but two of my cats are very overweight. I'm struggling to figure out how to get them onto a feeding schedule.

Answer: It can be really difficult to try and reduce the weight of overweight cats in a multi-cat household, particularly if your cats are grazers. Microchip feeders can be useful (see my answer above). Alternatively you could have a microchip cat flap in an internal door into a room where only the ideal weight cats can go, limiting the overweight cats’ access to the food. Feeding balls and puzzle feeders may also be a way to feed the overweight cats, providing them with a little exercise and increasing the time it takes to feed. Have a read of our blog posts about feeding enrichment puzzles and boredom busters (and see video below). Also check out our Feeding and obesity leaflet.

Question: What is the proper weight for a senior cat?

Answer: The average ideal weight for a cat in the UK is currently 4kg. Using body condition scoring alongside weight is important as this assesses how much excess fat your cat is carrying. Senior cats may tend to lose weight as they get older. Here's a useful link from the Pet Food Manufacturers Association (PFMA) to find out the ideal body condition score for your cat.

Please note that we are unable to give specific advice on your cat's health or any change in behaviour observed. For medical problems consult your vet who will have access to your cat’s medical history and will be able to examine them. You’ll find more information about cat care and behaviour here.

Would you like to ask one of our feline experts a question about your cat? Don’t miss the next live Facebook Q&A sessions: Neutering Manager Jane Clements will be answering questions on 15 June; behaviour specialist Nicky Trevorrow will be offering advice on 2 July; and vet Vanessa Howie will be back on 16 July. Every live Q&A is held on our national Facebook page from 2-3pm.

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Carley Stenson’s experience helping animals in Africa

This post has been written by Hollyoaks star Carley Stenson about her experiences during a challenge working with monkeys and cheetahs in Africa

Last April my boyfriend Danny and I were fortunate enough to fly to Namibia in southern Africa. Neither of us had ever been there before but we were both very passionate about animals and their welfare and this seemed like a beautiful place to help. We wanted to volunteer and make a difference to vulnerable animals. We were very thorough and committed to our research before choosing a project to help and we soon learned that not all places are like the Na'ankuse conservation project. So I do warn others like ourselves to be vigilant.

Carley Stenson and Danny Mac volunteering in Africa

Na'ankuse means 'God will protect us' and 'God watches over us'. It is an animal sanctuary with the aim of rescuing orphaned animals and caring for them till they are fit enough to survive back in the wild. As you can imagine the latter is very important to us as they do not breed in captivity. 

Carley Stenson and Danny Mac at Na'ankuse conservation project

These beautiful creatures have been orphaned in many ways – the parents may have died not long after their birth and they have been abandoned with no life skills. In some cases they may have been snatched from their parents to become pets – I cannot stress enough that a lion should never be a pet!

Hollyoaks star Carley Stenson at a wildlife conservation project

The rescued wildlife at Na'ankuse that have been humanised are unable to completely adapt to living in the wild. Na'ankuse has built acres and acres of land for these animals so they can experience the next best thing to their natural environment. 

Here's where we come in as volunteers.

Carley Stenson and Danny Mac volunteering

Carley Stenson feeding animals in a conservation project

Big cats in the Na'ankuse conservation project

While we were camping at Na'ankuse we got to clean out the enclosures and feed cheetahs, an aardvark, horses, polecats, baboons, vervet monkeys, lions, wild dogs, caracals, ostriches, jackals and many more. We prepared their morning and nightly feeds and even helped to build new enclosures. We scaled Naankuse's borders for signs of fence damage and cheeky little tunnels under the fences where warthogs burrow through, which in turn leaves enough space for wild leopards to follow who could threaten the creatures protected inside. One of our jobs was to search for footprints of animals in places they shouldn't be, watch back video tapes of hidden cameras and check the traps set up to catch hyenas – all to protect the vulnerable animals inside.

Na'ankuse conservation project

Danny Mac caring for an aardvark

Animals in a conservation project in southern Africa

Caracal in an African wildlide conservation project

We even went out in search of a snake! Needle in a haystack comes to mind. But with a very clever tracker we managed to find it day two. Where was it?! In our showers!

Carley Stenson volunteering in southern Africa

Our favourite role while we were at Na'ankuse was spending time with the humanised animals. We would go for walks with the cheetahs, sit and play with the Rock Hyrax and have sleepovers with baby baboons. Without parents to care for them, these young animals get scared and cold at night so our job was to be their surrogate mothers till they were old enough to no longer be afraid of the dark. Ever tried to put a nappy on a baby? Try putting one on a bouncy baby baboon at 3am in a pitch black tent!

Na'ankuse conservation project in Africa

Danny Mac volunteering at a wildlife conservation project

Carley Stenson caring for an orphaned monkey in Africa

Animal conservation in Namibia

We really enjoyed our two week adventure at Na'ankuse wished we could have stayed for longer. We do plan to go back. There was nothing too challenging for us out there as even the hardest or most physical of jobs were all for a great cause. 

It was the most amazing experience. Our holiday blues have never been so strong! I urge and encourage anyone to give it a go!

But if you can’t travel to African you don’t need to go far to find animals that need you. Which is why I am also extremely passionate about Cats Protection. No matter how big, small or where in the world they are, if an animal needs us it's our duty to respond.

Carley Stenson volunteering at Cats Protection
Carley volunteering for CP. Photo courtesy of Philippa Gedge
If you fancy your own challenge to help big cats in Africa, why not sign up for our Zambezi River challenge and lion conservation project? Find out more on our international challenge events page.

All photos courtesy of Carley Stenson unless otherwise stated.

This post has been written by a guest blogger. The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect the views of Cats Protection.

Monday, 1 June 2015

Why volunteers are vital to Cats Protection

This post has been written by Julie Meredith, Volunteering Development Manager at Cats Protection

Volunteers’ Week is an annual opportunity for all organisations involving volunteers join together and celebrate the huge contribution and positive impact volunteers make across the UK and around the world. Within Cats Protection we are extremely fortunate to have a long and strong history of volunteering; the charity was started in 1927 by a group of volunteers reacting to injustices they had seen in their community and beyond. Cats Protection has been changing the lives of cats, kittens and people for the better ever since. With our strong history of volunteering we are now looking forward to celebrating the milestone of 10,000 active volunteers across the charity. Who will be our 10,000th?

As a charity whose beneficiaries have their own special way in saying thank you, be it a slow blink, a hearty purr or a friendly head-butt we know that cats appreciate all that volunteers do and in some ways these thank yous mean the most.

Volunteer Yvette educating children about cat care
Volunteer Yvette at a Fun Day held by North Birmingham Branch to educate children about caring for cats; Credit: Richard Brown
However it should never go unsaid just how much volunteers are appreciated by others within and outside of the charity too. The thousands of letters, emails and posts on social media we receive from people who are just so happy to have a new feline member of their family, the people we help with neutering, the people we touch through our education work and the thousands of people who support us every day is all down to the people who make it all happen.

I know I speak for colleagues across the organisation when I say just how enjoyable it is to work alongside a group of passionate, committed, skilled and fun individuals. There is never a dull day in Cats Protection and I never really know what will be around the next corner but, I think that is what makes working with volunteers so distinctive and rewarding. One thing I can be sure of however is the unwavering transformation volunteers are and will, for many years to come, make to cats, kittens and people across the UK and for that I am very proud.

Cats Protection fundraiser at production of Cats the Musical
Volunteers and staff from Gateshead & District Branch and East Northumberland Branch organised a fundraiser at a local production of Cats
Within any type of organisation it’s not easy to say thank you in a way that means something to everyone (I’m not very good at slow blinking, purring or head-butting) and I know our volunteers don’t do it for the thank yous, but it is important that it is expressed…

Thank you to each and every volunteer who contributes in whichever way they can to changing the lives of our feline friends. Without your time, commitment and enthusiasm the world would be a very miserable place for cats and people alike.

We celebrate and recognise the contribution volunteers make to cats and the charity through our Volunteer ‘Special Thanks and Recognition Scheme’ (STARS). The scheme encourages volunteers to tell us about the brilliant work they’ve done – whether it’s rehoming, neutering, education, fundraising or working with other groups to help cats – and in return we offer them a selection of items to help them in their role as a small token of our appreciation. Example items include digital cameras to photograph and film cats in care or events, microchip scanners to identify lost cats and new toys.

If you’re interested in volunteering for Cats Protection, we have a number of different roles available for all kinds of skill sets. Perhaps you’re brilliant at organising events? Or maybe you’re a dab hand at social media? Or maybe you fancy something a bit more hands on with the cats? Join the biggest cat community in the UK and find an opportunity to volunteer with Cats Protection at www.cats.org.uk/get-involved/volunteering

Cats Protection Corby & District Branch volunteers
Corby & District Branch encourages volunteers to role share to feel involved with the wide range of tasks available
If you’ve some great stories about how you or other volunteers have helped cats or would like to take this opportunity to say thank you please get involved by commenting below!

Volunteers' Week, which takes place from 1-7 June 2015, is an annual celebration of the fantastic contribution millions of volunteers make to charities across the UK.

To read behind the scenes accounts of some of our volunteers, read the diary of a teenage fosterer and a day in the life of a kitten fosterer.