A New Approach To Our Feral Friends by Chrissie Cremore

Dedicated animal lovers Babs Williams and Richard Brotherston-Barnett met by chance at an animal shelter in Spain. Their shared passions for helping animals in need, creating healthy and manageable feral cat populations, together with educating young people about animal welfare ignited an idea which has now evolved into a ground-breaking scheme in our region. Two years of turning ideas into action and creating effective local partnerships has resulted in a new non-profit organisation CatnipTNR being launched with its base in the UK, but with a global mission. The organisation is excited to have Dinah Ashley-Cooper, Countess of Shaftesbury as its patron who is herself a worldwide advocate for animal welfare.

The children being educated about the project

With the assistance of Victoria Merino Machuca, a school teacher, Burjulú CatnipTNR has developed an exciting educational programme for schools which encourages both learning in the classroom, but is also designed to include families and communities to ensure the message is spread far and wide. The aim is to ensure future generations are informed from an early age about animal welfare, combined with working with local communities to Trap, Neuter and Return (TNR) feral animals. This ensures that colonies can remain as healthy and manageable as possible. A feral cat can have up to 8 kittens with 2-3 litters a year. Over a period of 5 years one un-neutered cat and its own un-neutered offspring can result in 12,000 unnecessary kittens being born! This naturally places a huge amount of strain on animal shelters, veterinary services and local communities.

FOUNDERS OF CatnipTNR with local Town Hall representatives and teachers

The school in Burjulú has had a feral colony of cats living alongside it for many years and the children, under supervision, have provided food for the animals and taken an active interest in the colony. Victoria heard about CatnipTNR establishing a base in nearby Vera and got in touch with the team to bring the idea of creating a permanent shelter for the cats (a Cat Hotel) and to develop the education programme. The curriculum, initially aimed at 6-12 year olds, incorporates learning about animal welfare, nutrition, healthcare, pet ownership/adoption, the work of rescue shelters and learning about potential careers in the field. The Head of the school, together with officials from Cuevas Del Amanzora Ayuntamiento, have given the scheme their full backing from the outset and are delighted to collaborate with this innovative and radical new venture. Babs reported “Taking the Cat Hotel and giving our initial presentation to the school was an incredible moment. The children are so eager and excited to be taking part in this and have written ‘thank you’ letters in English and designed amazing art work which adorns the classrooms. Their questions and thirst for learning more is just inspiring!”

A special letter written by the children in English

CatnipTNR has widened the content to include information about caring for puppies and adult dogs given that much of the fundamental principles are the same. Richard added “This is our flagship project and we are absolutely thrilled to have such a positive response from all of the local partners here in Andalusia. Our intention is to raise funds to build many more Cat Hotels across the region and to be able to extend this essential programme as far as possible.”

To find out more about the project and to enquire about volunteering or to donate to this amazing cause please visit their website: www.catniptnr.org email: babs@catniptnr.org or richard@catniptnr.org