Cemetery Cat

Cats are being recognized more and more for their ability to help humans whether in nursing homes as therapy cats or by helping kids learn to read. Science has also caught up with what cat lovers already know – that on top of companionship cats provide us with many health benefits. When it comes to providing comfort or stress relief cats are masters at it and we often don’t even realize they are working their magic on us. In the UK Barney the cemetery cat is once such feline who has worked his healing magic on people for 20 years.

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Barney the cemetery cat consoled mourners for 20 years. Barney lived at St Sampson’s Parish cemetery in Guernsey, UK. Image – Mirror.co.uk

Barney, who had been at the cemetery since he was a kitten, originally lived next store with his owners, but after they moved away the ginger tabby kept returning. Barney was eventually re-homed at the cemetery and looked after by the parish staff where he attended funerals and provided much-needed comfort to people mourning their loved ones.

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Barney the guardian angel has been praised for the positive impact he has had on people. – Image Mirror.co.uk

Last Friday the parish announced that after providing 20 years of service to the public Barney passed away from old age and was laid to rest. The Real-Fix reports that one of his keepers, Alan Curzon, has confirmed that Barney has now been “laid to rest at the place where he spent his entire life brightening up the lives of hundreds during their darkest moments.”

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Barney will have a plaque and a bench commissioned in his name along with being buried in the cemetery. Image – Mirror.co.uk

Alan tells the Real-Fix that “When relatives and friends have suffered the awful loss of someone close to them and go to visit a cemetery they are not in best frame of mind but Barney was always there to cheer them up… for those who entered the cemetery with a heavy heart, he lightened up the experience for them. When people walked through the gates, he often came up to them and brushed against them.”

Hundreds of tributes have come in for Barney and many people are in tears over his passing. Area residents who knew Barney, and are grateful for his presence over the years, have expressed their thanks.

“Writing on Facebook Debbie Ann Le Page said: “God bless you Barney, remember that lovely sunny afternoon, I laid down on the grass in the cemetery and we cuddled up together for two hours. I needed a friend that day and there you were my angel!! God bless you.”

Sue Falla, whose daughter is buried at the cemetery, said: “I always felt my young daughter was never alone when he was there. Really going to miss you, Barney, RIP.” – via Real-Fix

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Barney was well loved and members of the public fully supported having him buried in the cemetery. Image – Mirror.co.uk

Barney most definitely had a calling, providing an unspoken and invaluable service to the public, one he fulfilled right to the end. For all the ‘Barney’s’ out there working their magic I hope that his story will encourage more praise and respect for our feline friends everywhere.

RIP Barney, you have earned your wings.

Cats in a Coal Mine

The term ‘Canary in a Coal Mine’ is a familiar one and refers to the practice of using canaries to help detect dangerous gases while miners worked. Canaries were apparently used right up to the 20th century and phased out in the UK as recently as 1986. Besides these commonly used birds a wide range of other animals were also employed in mine work, including cats.

At first glance it may appear that cats were running around in coal mines, however a little further research revealed that cats in a coal mine were used to help to keep the rodent population under control in the pony stables, thankfully the cats never actually entered the mines.

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Leia, now retired from the UK’s last deep coal mine in Beal, Yorkshire. Leia along with fellow colliery cat Solo went to a nearby farm after the mine closed last month. Image – Your Cat

Four feral cats including Leia, pictured above, who worked at the North Yorkshire mine in the UK kept the stables clear of mice and rats and in turn they received food, shelter, water and care from the miners.

James Hodgkison of the Cats Protection York Adoption Center said the charity was called in to assist, trap and help transition the cats to new homes after the mine was slated to close last month. He said that the cats  were “very much valued by workers for keeping rodents in check…and had been well cared for by the miners…they were in great condition.”

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Florence was re-homed, with Betty pictured below, also to a nearby farm. Image – Pet News today

The new owners, who were very happy to provide homes for the cats, see them as an important part of mining history. They report that they are doing well and are continuing to work hard as mouser’s. Amanda Beal, who named the two cats she adopted Leia and Solo, tells Your Cat that while Solo is still “very feral…Leia very quickly decided that she likes some creature comforts and moved into the house.”

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Betty and Florence were named after two women involved in the miners strikes in the 1980s. – Image Sunday Express UK

While researching this piece I came across an urban legend that says cats were “thrown down closed coal mines in England during the Thatcher years by cruel people wanting to dispose of their pets.” According to the story, many years later, it was found that the cats had survived the fall and had “mutated into a community of blind cats with huge ears who were adapted to living in the complete darkness of the mine shaft.” More on this myth and how it was debunked can be read here under the Blind Coal Mine Kittens.

Eagle Scout

Eagle Scout Robbie Elliott of Norfolk, Virginia has become a local hero for community cats after he had to develop a leadership service project to earn his Eagle Scout honors in 2014. Initially he knew he wanted to do something to help pets and, after visiting the local Norfolk SPCA and learning about their TNR  program to help humanely reduce the number of community cats without resorting to killing them, Robbie decided where he would focus his attention.

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All Image via PetSmart Charities unless otherwise stated

TNR was a very new idea to the Norfolk community but, after PetSmart Charities granted the SPCA there a $62,000 grant in 2012 all that changed. The funds helped fix 1,200 cats and brought awareness to the practice and how it could help reduce the number of community cats by offering free spay and neuter services. Since then the program has grown.

Robbie’s visit to the SPCA made him realize that most people weren’t paying much attention to the cats and with food and shelter being the top two things needed, Robbie decided to focus on shelter.

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Robbie researched previous designs and what would best fulfill the needs of the cats enlisting the help of local architect Randy Lyall who donated his services. Together they included some unique elements on the wooden shelters like: a polycarbonate window for natural light, sheltered porch for food and water, a round hole for entry into the house, a one-way door in the back to give cats a quick getaway, and an inside wall to block the wind/rain. The design was also created with the caretakers in mind by ensuring two of the walls and roof were removable, making cleaning the structures easier.

Robbie raised $2,800 and he and his troop built a total of 10 houses, local business donated some of the materials which helped free up $820 which was then donated back to the program to buy food for the cats.

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Cat Shelter/Feeder built by Robbie Elliott

The Chesapeak Clipper reports that one of the local caretakers, Debbie DeMarco,  who was given two of the cat houses says they are a big hit with the cats and that Robbie ” has a good heart – and he did a really nice job.”  Rob Blizard, executive director of the Norfolk SPCA said he was amazed with the time and thought put into the project. “Robbie’s is the deluxe version – the Taj Mahal of feral cat houses.”

Robbie’s project has had a lasting, positive impact as more people have come forward wanting to help the cats. Some people who held negative views on the community cats prior to this project have now seen the benefits of TNR. All the support then allowed for an additional grant from PetSmart Charities of $79,000 to fix even more cats in 2015.

For anyone interested in building these houses, both the blueprints and instructions are available for free. Robbie and the Norfolk SPCA are encouraging everyone to share them to help community cats in all cities.

DIY Weekend Project

With the extreme cold weather we have been having in Toronto I thought it would be helpful to share this DIY project by Animal Equity that helps outdoor cats. How to Make a low cost Heated Water Bowl is a great instructional video especially for anyone who manages a feral cat colony, has to deal with cold weather and the problem of freezing water. Along with food, the video highlights the importance of providing outdoor cats with fresh water even in the winter months.

Materials needed

  • DuroFoam insulation (38mm)
  • Plastic container with lid
  • Plastic water bowl
  • Hot water bottle
  • Gorilla or duct tape
  • Knife
  • Scissors
  • Marker
  • Ruler
  • Pen and paper

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Your guide to mindful animal welfare in the Greater Toronto Area. We are committed to cultivating peaceful co-existence with our animal companions and neighbours.”

Animal Equity has articles, a directory for animal related services in Toronto and online courses so be sure to visit their site to find out more on how to help homeless cats in your own community.

One Man’s Crusade to Help Feral Cats

Helder Da Silva of Toronto found and rescued a frozen kitten four years ago at his place of work, the compassionate act would become instrumental in changing his life and the lives of many homeless cats.

Da Silva who has six cats of his own has racked up over 140,000 km on his car over the past four years traveling to cat colonies everyday across the city providing about 35 homeless cats with donated food and water he told the Toronto Star.

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Helder Da Silva feeds cats daily at four locations in the around the city – Source Sadiya Ansari Toronto Star

“I’ve lost a lot of respect for the human race because this is all done by people — careless, ignorant, uneducated. It shouldn’t be happening,” said Da Silva.

While food is a concern for the cats so is the source of available water  “They’re dying of thirst” he told the Toronto Star, so when the temperature starts to drop, he leaves water in a steel bowl placed in an old cookie tin, which he keeps from freezing by lighting a small candle beneath the bowl in the tin.

Helder Da Silva is doing his part to help and has fixed about 100 plus cats, and like other cat colony caretakers has benefited by the free spay neuter clinics offered through the Toronto Humane Society and Toronto Animal Services.

Unwanted cats are abandoned all the time, they are left in areas with existing cat colonies all over the city, the problem made worse by the fact that people do not spay and neuter their cats.

“If people don’t want their cats, just give them up for adoption,” Da Silva said. There are so many organizations assisting in adoptions now that just dropping off a cat curbside should never be an option, he said. “There’s no excuse for that.”

It is estimated that there are about 100,000  plus homeless cats in the city, anyone wishing to get involved and help should contact the Toronto Feral Cat Coalition a group that offers fantastic resources on TNR.

The Winning Ticket

Have you thought about what you would do if you had a winning lottery ticket? Bryce Vucekovich of Dallas knew exactly what to do with his $500 in winnings from a scratch ticket when he showed up at Dallas Animal Services with “a pickup truck loaded with food, litter and other supplies for the shelter’s dogs and cats.via Life with Cats

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Bryce Vucekovich surprised staff at Dallas Animal Services with food, litter and other supplies for the shelter’s dogs and cats. – photos Facebook Dallas Animal Services

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Bryce who adopted a 3 legged rescue dog from the shelter last Christmas had always wanted to give something back and this ticket proved to be the perfect opportunity. “Just the mass amount of animals they have there, it can’t be easy to manage all them,” Bryce said.

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If he had won a million dollars, Vucekovich said he would have done the same thing and hopes that his actions will inspire others to give as much as they can too.

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National Feral Cat Day

First launched by Alley Cat Allies in 2001 and marked on October 16 of every year, National Feral Cat Day is a day to raise awareness about feral cats, promote Trap-Neuter-Return, and recognize the millions of compassionate people who care for them.

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  • Feral cats, also called community or outdoor cats, have lived alongside humans for more than 10,000 years. Feral cats, live in groups called colonies and can thrive in every landscape. They can be as healthy as pet cats, but they are not socialized to humans and in many cases, there are exceptions, not adoptable.
  • Trap-Neuter-Return—a humane approach to managing and caring for feral cats—is the only effective method of stabilizing feral cat colonies.
  • In the majority of cities, feral cats are still caught and brought to animal pounds and shelters where they are killed. The shelter system is the number one cause of death for cats.
  • Estimates place the number of homeless cats in Toronto at between 20,000 and 100,000. source Toronto Humane Society

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The Toronto Feral Cat TNR Coalition is a great resource for those wishing to know more about how to help Feral Cats. TFCC is “a coalition of municipal animal controls, humane organizations, rescue groups and concerned individuals, working collectively to improve the lives of feral cats through strategic TNR programs and to address the numbers of homeless and feral cats living on the streets.”

It is good to remember Feral Cats did not choose their life, they have been abandoned, neglected, left behind and left able to reproduce. They suffer from exposure to the harsh elements, disease, injuries, sickness and cruelty. TNR and management of cat colonies works to address these issues by providing community based compassionate support.

Toronto declares first annual Feral Cat Awareness Week!

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Live in Toronto? Come out to support Garrison Ferals and help George!

Want to get involved in your city? Events are being held in the US, Canada and the rest of the world just click on the map to find an event near you!

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