Sunday, 31 May 2020

Cat poetry competition launched to help unwanted moggies

Budding poets and first-time rhymers are encouraged to enter a poetry contest to raise cash for unwanted kitties.

Whether you see yourself as a wannabe Pam Ayres or bend more towards the youthful exuberance of George the Poet, this is your chance to satisfy the itch to rhyme (or not).

Cats Protection’s Bedford & Biggleswade Branch was overwhelmed by the community support for its inaugural feline photo contest, which raised more than £500 and was won by Best in Show cat Niamh, owned by Nicola Taggart. 

long-haired tabby cat with paws crossed
Nicola Taggart's gorgeous cat Niamh won Best in Show

Organisers needed to go big for their next fundraising effort, so they have put out a call for the county’s creative wordsmiths to come forward with their finest poems about cats and more.

Branch Coordinator, Tamsin Eastwood, said: “We were amazed when our photo contest raised so much but that money only goes so far. We needed a new idea to tap into the creative spirit of our friends and supporters. Personally, I can’t wait to read all the wonderful poems. As they say; everyone’s a poet, even if they don’t know it.”

As an incentive, all entries will be considered for a booklet to raise even more funds for the branch. Established poets Joseph Parsonage and Ruth Caddick, who are not members of Cats Protection’s Bedford Branch, will judge the contest. 

Although only accepting emergency cases during lockdown, work goes on for cats already in the branch’s care. Money raised by the poetry contest will provide vital funds to help the volunteer-led branch care for cats and kittens in need.

Tamsin said: “We are unable to take in more cats, but we have cats in care who still rely on the hard work of our volunteers, as well as the generosity of the people of Bedford and Biggleswade who allow us to remain #HereForTheCats.”

Winners will receive a rosette and certificate, while runners up will get a certificate. The overall winner will be awarded a rosette, certificate and a Cats Protection notebook and pen. 

Categories (split into adults and children aged 16 and under):
Cat poetry:
  • In praise of cats
  • My cat(s)
  • The cat who visits
  • Big cats (ie lions, tigers etc.)
General poetry:
  • Learnings from lockdown
  • Friendship/kindness
  • The countryside
  • Things I appreciate
Poems on one side of an A4 page should be submitted to fundraising@bedford.cats.org.uk before the closing date of 22 June. If the flow just won’t stop once the muse is released, entrants may submit as many poems as they wish, costing only £1 per page.

To find more ways you can support the work of Cats Protection during the COVID-19 crisis, visit www.cats.org.uk/support-us


Tuesday, 26 May 2020

9 tips for better cat photos from a Cats Protection volunteer

Cat lover Kevin Smith has a knack for snapping purrfect cat pictures and is keen to share his tips to mark National Photography Month.

Amateur photographer Kevin and his partner Katie have given shelter to many moggies as fosterers for Cats Protection’s Brighton & District Branch, including their current cats Sid Delicious and Mavis Bang Bang. 

With these tips, Kevin wanted to show that Cats Protection volunteers remain #HereForTheCats and to encourage entries to the branch’s photo contest.

tortoiseshell cat looking up at the camera

He said: “We fostered our cats as kittens and then decided to keep them. They're just over a year old but still as entertaining. Lockdown means we’re spending a lot of time with our furry friends and, as anyone who loves cats knows, we can’t stop taking photos of them; my phone is full.”

Kevin’s love of photography developed when he went to Ethiopia to work at a teacher training college through Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO). He said: “Ethiopia was an amazing place to develop my skills. Everywhere I turned there was something interesting to photograph. I bought my first Digital SLR just before I went and always had it by my side while I was there.”

His passion was put to good use when Kevin returned to the UK and began volunteering for Cats Protection. He said: “It’s great to work with cats and help them go to their forever homes. As volunteer fosterers, we took a lot of photos of cats in our care, and I still get to snap all the brilliant characters that come through the branch.

grey cat with yellow eyes looking at the camera

“Apart from it being fun, I like to capture each new personality and best show off their character. Our photos are used to publicise the cats on the branch website or on Facebook to help tell their story and increase their chances of being adopted. It’s a very fulfilling role.”

Kevin wants to share his experience to help people take better cat snaps. He said: “Staying home provides the perfect opportunity to work on your photo game and take better shots of your cats. Whether you grab quick snaps with a phone or use a fancy camera, these simple skills and straightforward tips should help to show your cats in the best light.”

Top tips for taking better cat snaps

1. Find the best light
Natural light through a window can give sharp photos with lots of detail and highlights. But artificial light can be used to your advantage or you can create drama with contrasting light. It’s even possible to get great shots of cats in the spotlight of a desk lamp. The golden hour is best; shortly after sunrise or before sunset, when light is more red and soft. 

tortoiseshell-and-white cat standing next to penguin ornament

2. Consider the background
A white cat will look magnificent against a dark background. Similarly a dark cat against a light background to create contrast. Cats with patterned coats like tortoiseshells are most tricky because they look quite busy and can get visually lost. They look best against clear, pale backgrounds. Background is less of an issue if you zoom in close, making it blur.

3. Capture emotion
Pictures have most impact if they convey emotion. Whether your cat is stretched out on a rug, wild-eyed during play or staring wistfully out of the window, the stronger the emotion, the more impact. Think about when and where you’re most likely to catch them in this state

4. Continuous shooting
Cats can be at their most dramatic when they’re lively and alert, but this usually means they’re moving around, making it difficult to get good photos. Get it right and you capture them with spectacular results. Take lots of shots in quick succession in the hope that at least one will be a golden shot. If you’re using a camera, use ‘burst’ or ‘continuous’ to take shots in quick succession. If you’re using your phone, keep snapping away and delete the duds after.

three tabby-and-white kittens playing

5. Get their attention
Cats don’t always play ball. They do what they like, which is what makes them so great. That extends to posing in your perfectly choreographed photo opportunity. Getting their attention by clicking fingers or dangling toys can be challenging when you’re holding your camera or phone. Remember, photos of cats looking away from the camera also carry lots of emotion.

6. Up close and use angles
A close-up on a cat’s eyes will get maximum emotional connection. To show them lounging on a rug or squashed into a cardboard box, include the setting in the picture to give context. Angles can transform a mediocre shot into something more creative and interesting. You can switch your phone camera from the default rear-facing to front-facing to get crazy angles for buddy shots while your cat is sitting next to you. Get down to their level for a cat’s eye view.

7. Use auto mode
When your cat treats you to some weird and wonderful behaviour, the last thing you want is to mess around with camera settings. Hardly anyone chooses the manual settings on phones as default auto settings are so good at adjusting to conditions. On a DSLR you might want to manually adjust settings for something extra creative, but you’re most likely to capture something great if you use settings you’re comfortable with. The camera will respond quicker than you to everything in front of the lens, including feline madness you’re hoping to capture.

ginger-and-white cat in a garden

8. Respect your cat and be patient
It can be tempting to get your cat to do things for the camera but you shouldn’t do anything that makes them feel uncomfortable or puts them in danger. When they’ve had enough, let them be. Don’t worry if photographic magic eludes you; there’ll be other opportunities. Sometimes the best cat pictures show a cat being a cat. If all else fails, there’s always catnip. 

9. Keep your camera close
Most importantly, keep your phone or camera close for moments you don’t want to miss.

If you would like to enter Brighton & District Branch’s photography competition, visit their website for more details. You can also support their work caring for unwanted cats and kittens by donating to their JustGiving page.

Tuesday, 19 May 2020

Cat lover raises over £1,000 by running marathon on adoption centre driveway

When the 2020 London Marathon was postponed, keen runner Aidan Jepson decided to complete a very special lockdown challenge at Cats Protection’s Cornwall Adoption Centre instead. 

39-year-old dad Aidan clocked up an incredible 437 laps of the centre’s driveway to achieve the 26.2-mile distance, and was cheered on by his wife Libby Jepson, the manager of the centre. 

Man in black cap and t-shirt giving thumbs up in front of Cats Protection logo
Aidan wanted to support the amazing work of his wife and her team

“I’ve done a few ultra-marathons and quite a few marathons in the past, so within my running social group I see crazy runs like this taking place,” Aidan explained.

“With the London Marathon not happening in April, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to raise some much-needed funds for the centre.”

After setting off at 8:30am, Aidan ran for almost six hours to complete the gruelling challenge which was live streamed on the centre’s Facebook page.

Man running through finish line ribbon at Cats Protection centre
Aidan crossed the finsih line after 437 laps of the driveway

Scores of supporters followed his progress online throughout the day and donations soon exceeded the original target of £500, raising more than £1,100 for the charity.

“It was never going to be a three hour marathon. It was just great fun enjoying the day and seeing people passing by doing their daily exercise asking what I was doing.”

“The centre’s staff were monitoring the live feed but every now and then during the run I wanted to thank everyone for their amazing support. To double the fundraising target was awesome!”

While Aidan recovers from his epic effort, employees at the centre continue their vital work with a number of unwanted kittens amongst the cats currently in their care.

Donations to support Cornwall Adoption Centre’s work can still be made on Aidan’s JustGiving page

If you’re feeling inspired by Aidan’s lockdown marathon, you could take on 26.2 miles your own way with our Miles for Moggies virtual challenge! Find out more at: www.cats.org.uk/milesformoggies

Wednesday, 13 May 2020

Tiny kittens rescued from under a bush after mother is hit by car

*Update - 5 June 2020*

The orphaned kittens being cared for by Cats Protection's Dereham Adoption Centre are nearly six weeks old and have now been named!

Nicknamed the Tabby Rascals by their carers, the four kittens are now called Pickle, Papaya, Peanut and Pesto. 

Four tabby kittens looking up at the camera
Pickle, Papaya, Peanut and Pesto, also known as the Tabby Rascals

One of the kittens, Pickle, was given his name by players of People's Postcode Lottery, who fell for the scrawny kitten after his plight was posted on social media. It wasn’t long before names flooded in, with Pickle, Pesto, Simba and Cody selected as the top suggestions. After a series of Instagram votes, the little chap was named Pickle. And it suits him well.

The loveable litter have been receiving round-the-clock care since they were rescued from under a bush, after their mother was killed on a busy road. 

Cats Protection female employee holding tabby kitten with its mouth open
Cat carer Lynzi Sizeland with cheeky Pickle

The responsibility fell to Dereham Cat Care Assistant Lynzi Sizeland, whose role is supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery. For the past few weeks, Lynzi has dedicated much of her time to hand-rearing the four tabby kittens and is largely to thank for their good health.

Lynzi said: “The kittens were too young to fend for themselves, so I had to change my daily routine to play mum to them. Their mum had given then a good start in life as they were surprisingly clean and healthy when they came in. Thanks to her, they had a fighting chance.

“It has been a challenge with four hungry and playful kittens to feed, but it’s what we do and I love my job. Despite the current restrictions, we remain #HereForTheCats.”

Tabby kitten being bottle-fed by Cats Protection employee
Pickle being bottle-fed by his dedicated carer

Growing nicely and doing well at nearly six weeks old, the kittens seem oblivious to their tragic start in life. They will remain in care until lockdown restrictions have been lifted and they are old enough to find new homes. Please keep an eye on the adoption centre's website to find out when the kittens are available for adoption. 

Lynzi said: “They are now fully litter trained and are being weaned onto kitten food mashed up with milk and dry food. They love to play and are all already practising skills they will need in adulthood, like stalking and the side crab walk and fluffing themselves up! But they are still young and can be a bit wobbly on their legs, occasionally losing their balance, which always makes me smile.”

Hazel Johnstone, Senior Programmes Manager at People's Postcode Lottery, said: "It's been so fun seeing all the quirky names that people have come up with while also offering us a great opportunity to spread to word about the fantastic work Cats Protection does to help cats in need. With the help of People's Postcode Lottery players, the charity works tirelessly to achieve its vision of a world where every cat is treated with kindness and an understanding of its needs. We're delighted to be able to support this vital work."


Read on for our original blog post about the orphaned kittens...


Four tiny kittens were bundled into a cardboard box and saved from almost certain death after their nursing mother was killed on the road. 

Cats Protection mobilised staff from two of its Norfolk centres, thanks to a quick-thinking passer-by who rescued the desperate kittens from under a bush.

tabby kittens in a box

At around three weeks old, the kittens were not strong enough to fend for themselves and would have struggled to survive if they had not been found so quickly and rushed into the expert care of Cats Protection.

The dramatic rescue started on Saturday morning, when a man appealed for help at Cats Protection’s Downham Market Adoption Centre.

Centre Manager Lindsay Tempest said: “He rushed down our drive and said that he had a number of feral cats in his garden in Outwell. Sadly, one of them, the kittens’ mum, had been found dead in Stow Road that morning. He had seen her moving some kittens under a bush a few days before and he was desperate for our help. 

tabby kittens in a box

“We told him to bring the kittens straight to us and, within a very short time he returned with four tiny kittens in a cardboard box. Amazingly, they were clean, warm and a good weight. They’d obviously had their breakfast with mum just before she tragically ventured onto the road, so they had a fighting chance.”

The tabby kittens’ tender age meant they would need to be hand reared, which presented its own problems. 

Lindsay said: “Normally this would not be an issue but we are working on a skeleton staff during lockdown and didn’t have anyone here to help. Thankfully, our neighbouring Dereham Adoption Centre arranged to take them in and just a few hours later they were safely snuggled up, receiving round-the-clock care from one of their team.”

The kittens will remain in care until after the lockdown restrictions have been lifted and they are well enough to find new homes. Please keep an eye on their website to find out when the kittens are available for adoption. 

To find out more about what services Cats Protection can offer during the current coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, visit www.cats.org.uk/coronavirus

Friday, 1 May 2020

Pregnant cat shot and left for dead needs your help

Cats Protection’s Southampton Branch is appealing for help after taking in a cat who was viciously shot three times with an air gun while heavily pregnant.

They launched a JustGiving appeal, which is now very close to reaching their target of £5,000 to cover the veterinary care needed to save young Hope who was left unable to walk because of her injuries.

black-and-white cat with litter of black-and-white kittens

The poor black-and-white cat was found covered in blood, sheltering in a garden in Marchwood in Hampshire.

Just days after receiving surgery to remove one of the air gun pellets, Hope gave birth to three black-and-white kittens and one grey-and-white kitten; Raza (meaning hope), Asha (also meaning hope), Sachi (meaning miracle) and Nova (meaning new life). However, the outcome could have been very different. Now Hope, believed to be around three years old, is on the road to recovery.

black-and-white cat with litter of black-and-white kittens

Hope had been shot three times with an air gun which had left all three pellets still in her body. Two were potentially fatal owing to their proximity to her spine and brain.

Of the two pellets that stopped in her neck, one had entered on her under side and then travelled all the way through her body, and neither could be removed without risking Hope’s life. The third was lodged in the roof of her mouth and was removed. 

black cat with litter of black-and-white and grey-and-white kittens

Branch Coordinator Carolyne Kemp explains: “When Hope was taken as an emergency case into the surgery, the team couldn’t examine or x-ray her without pain relief. As well as needing surgery for her wounds and to remove the pellet, she needed to stay as an in-patient for a few days until she was able to come home with me to foster.

“Hope needed further assistance when it was time for her kittens to be born, so she has spent a lot of time needing veterinary help. To get through such an ordeal and then give birth to four healthy kittens is really quite amazing.

newborn black-and-white kitten being held in someone's hand

“We are extremely grateful to the wonderful team at Seadown Veterinary Surgery in Hythe who took such excellent care of Hope after she had suffered through such a cruel and violent attack.

“As a volunteer-run branch we fundraise to cover all expenses ourselves and the charity as a whole receives no government funding so we are asking anyone who has anything spare to please help us out.

“We are so glad we could save Hope and her kittens from what would have been a horrible and painful death if she had not been found. If we are lucky enough to raise more than the total needed to cover Hope and the kittens’ vet care, it will be used to help other local cats through our branch.”

litter of black-and-white and grey-and-white kittens

If you would like to donate to help cover the cost of Hope and her kittens’ care please visit the branch’s JustGiving page.

All four cats will be available for homing from the branch once the kittens are past eight weeks old and the current pause on adoptions owing to COVID-19 has ended. Anyone wishing to offer them a home once restrictions are lifted should keep an eye on the Southampton Branch’s website www.cats.org.uk/southampton where cats’ details are posted as soon as they are ready to be homed.  
 
two black-and-white kittens

As a charity Cats Protection is calling on the government to introduce the licensing of air guns in England and Wales, in line with legislation in Northern Ireland and Scotland, to prevent cats like Hope being fatally shot or injured. Cats Protection’s online petition on the issue has received over 115,000 signatures to-date. To sign the petition, visit www.cats.org.uk/airgunspetition