A Haven For Cats

Chachi’s Haven is a cat shelter located in Tel Mond Israel that has been run for over 20 years by animal advocate Gail Joss. It all began when Gail met a stray cat, who she later named Chachi, on a factory grounds in South Africa many years ago. She began feeding Chachi and the other cats at the factory, eventually moving them to a cottage she rented to keep them safe. She had no experience with cats prior to rescuing Chachi and the others but soon learned to care for them and began a life long mission to help stray, abandoned and injured cats. Gail now resides in Tel Mond Israel in a warehouse where she currently cares for approximately 150 cats, most neglected and abused, plus another 300 street cats. The next major step for Gail includes moving from the current warehouse location to a new property that will eventually become a clean and safe shelter for both her and the cats. To find out more about her work, the move and what life is like for street cats in Israel, I reached out to Gail who took time from her extremely busy schedule to answer some questions.

How many cats are currently in your shelter and how many street cats do you care for?
 
There are currently 140 cats in the shelter, which varies as we lose some cats and new ones come in. This years kitten season has been particularly bad with a lot of kittens being dumped on the street to die (sometimes with their mothers, sometimes not). I take in every single one that needs help. Outside the shelter I was feeding about 250-300 street cats in about 28 colonies, however it will be more now because I have 2 new colonies. An elderly man died 10 days ago in Tel Mond and he fed 2 colonies plus an additional 20 cats. I am now feeding them.

What is your daily routine like?

My day generally consists of cleaning, washing, feeding, vets trips (for TNR), treatment of kittens/sick cats. For my street cats the routine is different, for my own and the cats safety, I set off at 2 am with 50kg of dry food, come rain or shine to feed them, and this will increase because of the 2 new colonies I have taken over. Saturday is a religious day in Israel and people cannot drive cars so I walk 17 km carrying the heavy bags of food. The street cats are always there waiting for me as they know I won’t let them down. In 22 years I have only missed feeding the street cats once when I was in hospital. New street cats constantly appear and the colonies get larger as word gets out, sadly I lose a lot of street cats.

There is little time for anything else, including eating, and I tend to go with 3-4 hours sleep a day. With the expenses mounting to cover our day-to-day needs, I have had to borrow money and work outside the shelter to cover the debt.

 

Describe what the general attitude is like towards cats and street cats in Israel

I face a lot of adversity for my work and sadly do not receive support from the community at large. Israel has a massive population of unwanted cats (in the region of 2 million – a large number for such a small country) and the government fails to fund its TNR programme. Generally cats are not regarded highly by the majority of Israeli‘s and are often abandoned, abused, killed and poisoned. People have set their dogs on me, I have even been verbally and physically abused for helping the cats, and the street cats, they will go round after me and throw away food and turn over tubs of water. Some people have even put poison in the food. There are laws to protect cats and street cats in Israel but they are not enforced. The police do NOTHING even when you have photo’s or video’s, so the abuse towards animals and those who care for them continues.

What has been your biggest challenge in gaining support for your work?

I think it is hard to get help because cats in general are often considered vermin and a nuisance. I desperately need donations, local volunteers to help with the daily running of the shelter, anyone willing to help out with maintenance, repairs of the shelter and with TNR.

Please tell me why you were looking for a new location for you and the cats

The warehouse that I am currently in is ₪3000 (Israeli Shekels) a month, approximately £625/$820 a month, and the place is literally a death trap that is falling down. It has massive cracks down the walls, the electrical is extremely unsafe, the windows and doors don’t shut properly, it’s boiling hot in the summer, it floods when it rains and it’s full of mold – all of these things have had a detrimental effect on myself and the cats health. The cats as a result often have colds, sinus and respiratory problems which all impact my workload and medical expenses.

In addition my current landlord is an uncooperative and can be abusive, he often turns off the water supply, leaves dogs loose outside that terrify me and the cats and, he refuses to fix the problems in the warehouse. The general area outside the shelter is not safe either, we have vipers around and 2 cats Lovey and Doogy have been bitten. Fortunately I was able to act fast and luckily they both survived. 4 other cats, Vivi, Freddy, Bubbly and Elsa were all poisoned while they were inside the shelter and sadly only Elsa survived.

I understand a new location has been found, what is the best way people can help you?

Donations for the move in addition to cover our daily expenses are going to be needed even more now! Currently only a small number of followers donate regularly. The rent in the new location will be double – ₪7000 a month, approximately £1500/$1900 a month. The renovations are ridiculously expensive and are over double what I planned on but I have no choice because the basics such as electricity, plumbing etc…all need to be fixed. Phase one of the renovations are underway and it is going to be a massive improvement with fresh air, lots of space and no mold! Once it is done it will be worth it.

Although the Facebook page has over 14,000 likes and Instagram nearly 2,000 followers it’s getting harder and harder to get the posts visible. As you know posts are restricted because they want people to pay for them to be boosted, but this is something I do not have the money for.

Once the new shelter is ready I will be bringing about 80-100 street cats there, they will be from the Moshav we are on now because they will not be safe once we leave here. Some will be from another ‘religious’ Moshav because they are in the most danger daily.

Is there anything else you would like people to know?

Chachi’s Haven is a registered charity with an accountant and a board that I am accountable to. In addition to TNR and helping the street cats I also campaign to raise awareness for animal welfare in Israel.

How you can help

  • Please share this post and help spread the word about Chachi’s Haven, especially if you have friends or family that are cat lovers – you never know who will be in a position to help, or perhaps know someone who can
  • Donate to Chachi’s Haven directly on a monthly or one time basis to help Gail and the cats in their new location, with food, medical care or supplies
  • Virtually adopt a cat or physically adopt one of the cats from the shelter
  • Volunteer  – especially for those who are in the area. Gail is always looking for and in need of dedicated people to commit to helping her on the ground

Chachi’s Haven can be followed on Facebook and Instagram, please like, donate if you can and spread the word!

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Rescue and Reunion

Animal rescue teams have been hard at work since the Fort McMurray fires broke over a week ago and some wonderful progress has been made in rescuing and reuniting pets with their owners. There were some reports that rescue groups had initially been blocked from entering the city by police causing a concern that pets would not be found in time. Fortunately the situation was rectified and soon the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo took the lead on coordinating all pet rescue in the area.

Both the RCMP and first responders were helping out by giving food and water to animals that they came across and transporting them out to animal control facilities when possible.

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A RCMP officers offers food to a cat in Fort McMurray, Alberta on Friday May 6, 2016. RCMP will do what they can to assist pets they may come across in carrying out search and rescue operations. Image calgaryherald.com

To date a multitude of officials, rescue groups, shelters, veterinarians and volunteers have worked tirelessly together to locate, health check, provide care for and return animals to their owners. Hundreds of animals are being housed by the City of Edmonton Animal Care and Control or fostered until they can be returned to their families.

One happy and tearful reunion via Rescued, Reunited, and Unclaimed Pets Of Fort Mac

 

Today the Alberta SPCA reports that the official count from the Fort McMurray People and Animal Reunion Centre in Edmonton is:

  • 955 animals checked in and health-checked
  • 486 animals reunited with their owners
  • 206 animals scheduled for reunions

One cat named Tux, christened the ‘Miracle Stove Cat’, survived in a house that burnt to the ground. Temperatures reached a thousand degrees, but Tux managed to survive by crawling into the stove. They think the glass in the stove broke from the intensity of the fire and he crawled in to hide, the stove fell over and Tux remained trapped until firefighters found him. Another cat named Sky also survived possibly by escaping from an open door, however two other cats from the same household are still reported missing.

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Firefighter Alex Jackson after saving ‘Stove Cat’ and bandaging his paws. Image Alberta SPCA

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Sky the cat rescued along with Tux the Stove Cat

One man who stayed behind in Fort McMurray is being called a hero after he took care of dogs, cats and rabbits that he came across, or that people on Facebook had asked him to check on. In an interview Lee Ellis tells CBC Radio that he visited about 20 houses per day for four days, helping about 80 pets. He went around door to door when the requests started coming in via Facebook and says that the animals were starved not just for food but also for attention. He avoided detection by riding around on a bike for the first three days, then on the fourth day while using a vehicle he was caught by the RCMP and escorted out. Lee says that he did manage to rescue a few more animals before leaving for good the following day.

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Lee Ellis with one of the many cats in Fort McMurray that he fed while remaining in the city after it had been evacuated. (Facebook.com/lee.ellis.980) via CBC.ca

Besides cats and dogs other animals like horses, chickens and even a pig named Marshall have been rescued. Michelle Coutu told CBC News that there was no advance notice of the evacuation and the sight of the flames sent her family scrambling. While she was able to cram her daughter, her grandson and her three dogs into the back of her truck, there was no room for the pig. “All I could do is let Marshall out of his pen and put some food down for him and pray for the best.”

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Marshall the “tough little” beer-loving pig – Image – CBC

Michelle reported Marshall missing and social media did the rest. The RCMP found him alive and tweeted a picture of an officer feeding the lucky pig a watermelon. The very resilient Marshall is now staying with friends and animal control until he can be reunited with his family.

While it could be weeks before residents are allowed to start returning home, for some being reunited with their animal companion is an important first step in the healing process.

Wildfires

By now Fort McMurray Alberta, and news of the massive wildfires that have swept through and consumed an entire city, has made the headlines. It is one of the most frightening and disturbing disasters with the largest displacement of people, that many including myself have ever seen in Canada.

The wildfires engulfed Fort McMurray in what can only be compared to as a hellish inferno. Images are surreal, the stuff made of nightmares and, as of today there appears no relief in sight. The fires have already ravaged more than 85,000 hectares of land, or to put it in perspective – areas large enough to consume the city of Manhattan, a few times over, and wipe out central London. It was reported that without rain and perhaps a miracle, the fire will continue to grow as it moves south. Help is coming in from all over to fight it, but fire crews are expected to have a very long, dangerous and seemingly futile battle ahead.

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A Mountie surveys the damage on a street in Fort McMurray Image – National Post

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Image taken by Sara MacKinnon of Westville as she fled Fort McMurray – MetroNews.ca

Some 80,000 plus residents have been displaced and miraculously no loss of human life has been reported to date, however these people have literally lost everything forced to leave with little to no possessions, the clothes on their backs, and, in many cases without their beloved pets. Thousands of pets have been reported to be stranded and understandably people are desperate to get them out.

These are just some of the missing pets, the majority cats, all from the Fort McMurray Fire Emergency Animal Assistance Facebook page. Their page is updated daily.

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I can wholeheartedly empathize with those who were forced to abandon their beloved animals. The feeling of utter helplessness of not being able to take them with you and not knowing when you will be able to get to them, wondering if they are alive or have enough food/water to last until they are rescued. While some people were fortunate and had time to get their pets, many were forced to leave while at work or, had no chance of returning for them. In any type of disaster whether it’s man-made or natural, animals are often the forgotten victims and the last to receive assistance if any. The reality in most scenarios like this is local authorities have little to no plans in place to help stranded pets and, for pet owners and rescue groups this is distressing and frustrating.

One group of small volunteers decided to ignore the evacuation order and went in to try to save as many pets as they could. Wyatt Colquhoun-Rivard and his group, members of Western Canadian Powerstrokes, a group of “truck enthusiasts who do charity work” got tired of waiting and worked as quickly as they could, rescuing about a dozen animals, before the police shut them down. In one apartment they busted down a door to retrieve two terrified cats “After we broke the door down there was hair everywhere,” he said. “You could tell the cats were scared, and they just didn’t know what to do. It was a total apocalypse area.”

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Image CBC.ca

The pets and animals who were lucky enough to make it out are getting help from the many animal rescue groups across Alberta, but there is little these groups can do right now for those left behind. “At this point there is no one who is going into the homes because it hasn’t been declared safe yet,” said R.J. Bailot with the Alberta Spay Neuter Task Force — the Calgary organization coordinating the relief effort. Many people, businesses, shelters, rescue groups and pet food companies have offered help and are doing whatever they can with those they can. Some flights evacuating people welcomed pets on board to fly with their families including Canadian North Airlines who tweeted this photo of Meow Meow the cat. After one of the Fort McMurray evacuees went into labour Canadian North said that their flight team would be looking after Meow Meow for the time being.

 

In the meantime volunteers on the ground are on standby waiting for the go ahead to go in to get the pets left behind. Evacuees forced to leave their animals behind in their homes in Fort McMurray are asked to fill out an animal assistance request form through the Fort McMurray Fire Emergency Animal Assistance Community on Facebook. This page was created as a resource to help those affected by the fire to place their animals in short-term care.

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Another request form has been included for those forced to abandon a pet during the evacuation the Fort McMurray area. This form can be found HERE where you can provide Pet Rescue details to allow a field team to respond. Home entry will be facilitated by a locksmith as a last resort.

A lost and found Pet Map was also created where people can locate lost or found animals this covers the many cats, dogs, bunnies and even livestock. The majority of stranded pets are cats, which by their nature are usually difficult to rescue due to the fact that they will often hide and remain out of sight.

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How to help

If you have family or friends in or near Fort McMurray please share this information. There may be someone out there who has lost a pet or simply isn’t aware of how to connect to rescue groups or get help.

Temporary homes for displaced animals are also in desperate need at this time, if you are in a position to provide housing for cats, dogs, or livestock please let any of the these rescue groups listed here know, and they will set it up or point you in the right direction.

If you are able to help out monetarily, outside of the Red Cross, donations specifically for animals are being collected by:

As this situation continues to develop, there will no doubt be tragedy and not every animal will make it out, the though of this is literally breaks my heart for the precious lives lost and for their humans who will have lost a beloved companion. I have to hope that there are still many more amazing rescue stories waiting to be told and reunions to be made.

My thoughts are with all those animals who have already perished, those still waiting for rescue and all people devastated by the wildfires.

A good reminder is to be prepared as best we can, that includes having a pet emergency preparedness kit ready, and in cases were you can’t get to pets to evacuate them, information and pet photo’s on hand to provide to rescue groups. Ensuring your pet is also licensed, microchipped or tattooed, and your contact information is current will help get your pet home should you be separated!

Roadside Rescue

In the middle of a thunderstorm while driving his five ton semi-truck in Burnaby BC last week, trucker Dennis McDonald decided to make a stop that wasn’t planned. Dennis had noticed what he thought was a dead cat on the road, except something told him the cat was still alive, so he turned his truck around and stopped to check. Dennis tells Burnabynow that once he approached the black cat he could see that he “was a mess…he couldn’t even hold himself up. It was one of the worst things I’ve seen.”  Dennis’s quick thinking and roadside rescue got the cat, now named Kevin, to the Burnaby SPCA where he urged staff to skip the paper work and get the injured cat treated first.

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Kevin the three-year-old feline had been hit by a car and suffered injuries to his top and bottom jaw. – Image BC SPCA

Dennis who is a cat lover already has two of his own and plans to adopt Kevin into his family once he is ready to go home. The SPCA had tracked down the cats original owner who was unable to pay for the surgery and had given the cat away to a neighbor. Kevin the cat was considered abandoned so the original owner decided to surrender him to the SPCA. Dennis said that “broke him in about a million pieces…I can’t do a lot on this planet, … but no being deserves to die anonymously in the corner.”

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Dennis, who has visited Kevin at the SPCA, plans to change the cats name to BB-8 a nod to Star Wars and the cats original name BB.

The SPCA say that Kevin’s recovery has been touch and go but luckily none of his injuries are life threatening. “He might have some mild asymmetry in his face and decreased hearing because his left eardrum ruptured, but I think his life will be pretty good,” says Burnaby Hospital veterinarian Dr. Claudia Richter, who notes the necessary surgery was generously donated by our friends at West Coast Veterinary Dental Services.

Dennis who can be seen in this video with Kevin says that the cat is “amazing…and knows people are looking after him”.

Tiny Wheels

Cassidy the kitten had a very rough start. Born to a feral mom, he spent his first weeks fighting for his life and by the time he was found he was starving to death and missing his back legs.

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Cassidy – All Images Tiny Kittens on Facebook

TinyKittens, a volunteer-run non-profit society working to improve the lives of cats and kittens in need in Fort Langley, British Columbia rescued Cassidy after he was spotted on a rural property. By the time he was rescued he had already lived 9 weeks with his injuries.

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Shelly Roche of Tiny Kittens, who trapped Cassidy, tells the Langley Advance that she “could feel all his little bones” and that he had survived not being able to walk on his back legs likely from birth. His mother could have accidentally bit off his feet, if they were tangled in the umbilical cord. Besides his injures he was also suffering for an a septic E. coli infection and the first vet who examined him wasn’t sure if he would survive.

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Cassidy the Miracle Kitten

Cassidy however had a very strong will to live and after he was brought to Mountain View Veterinary Hospital where his wounded legs were cleaned up, Tiny Kittens put him on their live internet feed. They wanted to give Cassidy the best chance possible to have a good quality of life and leveraged their large online following asking for help with obtaining a pet prosthetic.

Lucky for Cassidy the good folks at Handicapped Pets Canada approached Tiny Kittens and offered to provide a custom-built tiny wheelchair to allow him to run around using his front legs.

Tiny kitten calls for tiny wheels

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Roche  says that they are “even looking into implanted prosthetic feet” like the ones Oscar the bionic cat got when he lost his front legs in a combine harvester and became the first feline recipient of special prosthetic implants. Two students have also stepped up and suggested using their school’s 3D printer to make progressively larger wheelchairs as Cassidy grows.

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Cassidy recovering after his neuter surgery.

In the meantime they are ensuring Cassidy is happy and on the road to living a full life. He is off his pain medication and is being a typical kitten playing with his brother Topper and other cats. Roche says he is at about “40 percent” when it comes to using an accessible litter box made for him.

Once Cassidy is ready, he will need a forever home where someone is willing to provide him with lots of love and care.

You can watch Cassidy live on the TinyKittens web cam here and follow him on Facebook for updates and more videos.

Truck Stop Cat

This wonderful rescue story demonstrates that acts of kindness can come from anyone, anywhere.

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Meet Party Cat rescued by biker and sheetmetal worker Pat Doody. All images via Boredpanda

Pat Doody rescued the kitten, who he named Party Cat, while riding cross-country from Nevada to New Jersey. Doody said he spotted the kitten, who appeared badly burned, at a truck stop while getting gas.

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Doody with Party Cat

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Once Party Cat got on a regular feeding schedule he improved and his burns healed up. The kitten then lived on the road with Doody until they got home.

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Party Cat enjoyed hanging out inside Doody’s vest when they were traveling on the road.

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Doody tells Boredpanda that he has never met such a calm cat.

This lucky orange tabby has since seen a vet, is doing well and now lives permanently with Doody.

Lucky Number Six

When a black and white stray cat turned up in a southwest Edmonton neighborhood, concerned residents quickly called the local cat rescue and TNR group Little Cats Lost. Pauly, as he would be later named, was a stray cat with a very unique feature.

Lucky number six

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Pauly the six-legged cat

Pauly, who was estimated to be about seven years old, was discovered to have six legs, two of which were attached to his sternum. Little Cats Lost realized that he would need them removed and ran a fundraising campaign to pay for his surgery at Oxford Animal Hospital where he would be treated. The fundraiser, which raised nearly $4,500, more than double its $2,000 goal, covered the costs of two surgeries for Pauly and was helped by a donation from Edmonton’s International Cat Festival.

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Image – Pauly’s Journey Facebook

Dr. Tamer Mahmoud, owner and veterinarian of the clinic, examined Pauly and said his condition was very rare and that there were likely two kittens in utero, and Pauly had absorbed the other one.

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The surgery  lasted about 90 minutes and was performed by veterinarian Ignacio Tan. -Image  Edmonton Journal

Besides his extra legs Pauly also had hip dysplasia and what looked to be an extra kidney. The ‘kidney’ actually turned out to be another pair of testicles. Dr. Ignacio Tan did a lot of research and consulted specialists prior to performing the straightforward procedure which was made easier due to the fact the legs weren’t connected to other organs.

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Pauly’s xray – Image Pauly’s Journey on Facebook

Video of Pauly can be seen here

Pauly underwent the surgery at the end of August and is currently in a foster home where he is reported to be making progress and taking it easy. He has gone through quit an ordeal living that long with his impairment and being abandoned on the streets. Once he is fully recovered and rehabilitated he will be ready for adoption.

For more on Pauly, and to check out his progress, be sure to head over to Pauly’s Journey on Facebook.