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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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.

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

Cats, Toronto, Animal Equity, Stray cats, Feral Cats, Homeless Cats, Cat overpopulation, Cat Colony caretakers, Community helping cats, Education, Tutorials, Tips, How to Care for Feral Cats, EK founder of Animal Equity and co-director of Global Mind Body, Cat rescues, Animal Welfare services

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.

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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