Improve the Living Conditions of the Abandoned Cats of Formentera

Project location: SPAIN, Formentera
Project start date: April 2011 - Project end date: April 2011
Project number: 2010-52
Beneficiary: Acción Francisco e.V.

Acción Francisco e.V., a German animal welfare and protection society, was founded in 1996 in order to improve the tragic living conditions of the cats without owner on the Spanish island of Formentera. Since its inception, the society has carried out annual two-week neutering campaigns. Throughout the year the society finances the dry feed for about 900 cats, though the cats can only receive the bare minimum of food due to limited funds. All year round volunteers on the island look after injured or sick cats as well as bringing cats to be castrated by the vets. Abandoned kittens (e.g. kittens retrieved from waste bins) are raised by private volunteers. Some of the cats found new homes in Germany. All members of Acción Francisco e.V., including the management, are unpaid volunteers and are not compensated for their expenses.

Due to growing awareness of the Acción Francisco society among the population of Formentera, information on abandoned cats reaching the society, as well as veterinary costs, have been rising steadily and are becoming an increasingly large and incalculable challenge. Still, in spite of the seemingly hopeless financial situation, in September 2010 the society began to prepare, as well as the years before, its neutering campaign in February 2011.

Extensive documentation and continuously updated information allowed the society to contact local members and friends on Formentera and to learn where additional support was needed during the neutering campaign. The society works in cooperation with both veterinary clinics on Formentera, the Clínica Veterenaria Formentera in Sant Ferran and the Clínica Veterenaria La Savina in La Savina, and informed them about the time schedule of the campaign and keeps them updated the about the expected workload. Furthermore, additional team members had to be found who would reliably support the campaign on Formentera.

Thanks to the support of the Nando Peretti Foundation, in October 2010 it became possible to settle several unpaid veterinary bills and to ensure that the campaign in 2011 would be extensive enough to be effective.

With this financial base the neutering campaign was secured and could now proceed as planned, and two leading team members booked the flights (all flights were paid for by the members themselves) and prepared detailed procedure documentation for the three teams of cat catchers on Formentera.

To ensure the effectiveness of the neutering campaign, one week's preparation was required on the island itself. The extensive equipment (traps, kennel, transport cages, etc), stored by local members of the society free of charge, was unpacked, installed and prepared for business. Disinfectant for the daily cleaning of the equipment, cat food, water and many other details necessary to ensure a smooth procedure were obtained and the team members met to discuss and finalise the details.

Saturday, 13th February was the first working day for the vets (who had agreed to work during the weekends for the duration of the campaign). Because the society always tries to ensure that the time span during which the cats are kept in cages be as short as possible, the cats who were going to be taken to the vets the next morning had to be caught the evening or the night before.

The daily routine was as follows: The whole team of catchers met at the "station" at 8.30 am. (These rooms are in a private household, provided free of charge for the duration of the neutering campaign.) The catchers fetched the animals that had been caught from the previous night and took them to the vets. Here, those animals that had had surgery the day before were waiting to be set free. After their surgery, the cats stayed overnight and were released at the places where they had been caught, but not before a medical examination and clearance by a vet. After castration the left ear of each cat was notched for visible identification while they were still under anaesthetic.

In order to prevent mix-ups, the catchers filled in a report sheet which contained all important data, such as the place, date and time of finding, as well as the name of the catcher, and other details. It also contained the signature of the vet confirming the clearance, as well as the date and time of release at the place at which they were caught.

After those animals which had had surgery and had been released to enjoy their freedom back in their habitat, there was usually time until 2 pm to take more animals to the vets. The cats were caught by means of specific traps. This was immediately covered in order to relocate carefully the respective animal into a larger wire cage, which was also covered and padded with cardboard. In these cages, the cats were brought to the vets. After the surgery, they were then placed on sterile mats and put into kennels padded with clean towels in order to give them the rest they needed.

The remainder of the day, until more cats could be caught for the following day, was used for short lunch breaks. Afterwards, the catchers had to clean and disinfect their used equipment, as well as prepare it for the next day. They also had to discuss the following workdays' schedule with the custodians of the cat colony.

Twice a week, there was a meeting designed for the exchange of relevant information.

Late in the evening, the catchers then completed their documentation of the day's events. This continuously updated information constitutes an important basis for the work over the year and for the next neutering campaign.

On several occasions team members also had to attend to sick and injured animals. Some of the cats that were caught were found to have lead pellets in their bodies. The teams helped as much as possible. The vets were able to help some of the animals in need, others were cared for by other animal welfare activists on Formentera.

After the bills had been paid and the equipment stowed away on February 25 and 26, the Acción Francisco e.V. team could be proud of their successful and expedient work. They had originally planned for the neutering of 150 animals. At 209 neuterings, this target was met and exceeded. For this success good logistics and a dedicated team of catchers was of the essence. With this operation, the society has taken a further important step towards improving the situation of cats without owner on Formentera.

It is safe to say that many additional steps over many years will still be necessary to create good general living conditions for ownerless cats on the island.


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