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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Helping Stray Cats With Photography

I recently came across this fantastic website called Photographers for Animals. Their mission is to ” Inspire positive change on behalf of animals; to support those helping animals; and to document animals and the efforts being made on their behalf.”

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Photo Credit: Jason and Elizabeth Putsche

Baltimore based Husband and Wife team Jason and Elizabeth Putsche have various projects on the go but their documentary, currently in production, called Community Cats was one that caught my eye. Through their work over the years the couple has documented the lives of feral cats, and with this film they will profile the people that care for them and the love hate relationship communities/cities have with stray cats.

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Photo Credit: Jason and Elizabeth Putsche

Beside photography being a great medium to capture the beauty of animals, it also speaks to people in ways which words cannot. For me it makes an emotional connection and when it’s an image of something that I love, in this case cats, the impact is often stronger and longer lasting.

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Photo Credit: Jason and Elizabeth Putsche

Sadly feral cats are heavily misunderstood and persecuted, so it always good to have them portrayed in a positive light along with individuals who are working to make their city a better place for these forgotten animals. It’s also wonderful to see the benefits of TNR, which is truly a humane way to help them, being profiled.

Cats, Kittens, Feral Cats, Stray Cats, Homeless Cats, Photography,  Jason and Elizabeth Putsche, Photgraphers For Animals, TNR, Alley Cat Allies, Community Cats, Documentary, animal rights, Helping cats, Animal Shelters, Rescue, Adopt, Spay, Neuter, Compassion for cats

Photo Credit: Jason and Elizabeth Putsche

If you are a photographer, professional or amateur, and would like to help out animals locally by volunteering your services you can register here to be included in their website directory. Connect with like minded people and combine your passion for animals and photography for a most worthy and excellent cause.