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!