Guest writer Beth Hull*
The pic is of a cat which was abandoned, rescued by feeder, fostered by Beth and then recently homed.
Stray Cats of Malta: What’s the Story?
Hi folks, Elisavet has very kindly invited me to write a little guest post for her blog about the stray cat situation in Malta and I’m more than happy to oblige. I’m a foreigner myself; I’m English and I’ve been in Malta for around 3 years now. I still remember the first time I saw a proper stray cat colony, it was at a children’s playground in Sliema and at the time I could see they were being fed by someone so I found it quite sweet really, I love animals so it meant I could go and sit in the park and enjoy the company of some kitties, how nice.
When I moved away from St Julian’s I decided to get a cat of my own and quite coincidentally I saw a lovely tabby kitten looking for a home on Facebook. She became my first cat Lulu and that’s how I met my first feeder and fosterer, Joanna. To meet Lulu I went to her garage in Siggiewi and was astonished to find she had around 15 cats there. It’s a large garage, some were wandering free and some were in cages recovering from surgeries etc. (Incidentally I fell in love with another cat so actually adopted two!). She started telling me about the situation in Malta, the first time she’d gone to SPCA and come home with 12 cats and the enormous amount of work her and some friends do to help the stray ‘colonies’.
The problem boils down to this: most people in Malta don’t neuter their cats and many cats are abandoned. So put together dozens of stray fertile cats and what do you get? A hell of a lot more cats!!! An educated estimate says that one female cat and her offspring could produce between 100 and 400 more cats within a 7 year period (average years of fertility of a female cat). Quite a horrifying statistic. So basically, what we have in Malta are dozens upon dozens of these ‘colonies’ which without any intervention just continue to balloon. They need feeding, they need veterinary care and most importantly, they need neutering! This is where the feeders come in. There are a handful of people in Malta who day in, day out spend their own money (mostly, some do get a little help) taking care of these stray cats.
Then, you have the fosterers like me. We basically take in (when we have space) the abandoned cats, kittens, the particularly friendly and any other cats which aren’t able to stay outside. Usually we are asked by the feeders or we’re contacted by members of the public who come across the cats/kittens themselves. We, again at our own expense, care for the cats, treat them for any illnesses and then find homes for them. I’ve had to stop lately for financial reasons but I’d estimate that in the last 9 months I’ve probably fostered and homed 30+ cats and kittens. I can’t stress this enough but there are NEVER enough foster places for all the cats that need help, it’s heart-breaking at times and I know all of us have at some point taken in more than we could realistically handle. But when the sanctuaries are full, who else is going to help?
The sanctuaries are another thing I should mention; there are two main cat sanctuaries: Tomasina in Luqa and CSAF (Carers for Stray and Abandoned Felines) in Cottonera. These are both absolutely full and are very rarely able to take in new cats. Most cats which go to these sanctuaries will spend the rest of their lives there unless they are lucky enough to find a home, which most aren’t. So, with these being full, this is why feeders and fosterers are so essential. Cats continue to be abandoned and strays continue to breed. One of the local councils has recently funded the neutering of a large colony and we really hope others will follow suit.
So, I think that gives you the general info about the situation, now what can you do to help? For one, if you’re considering adopting a cat please choose an adult cat rather than a kitten. These are much harder to find homes for and I actually prefer to adopt adults as you’re able to see their character from the start. With a kitten you never really know if you’re getting a lovely friendly cuddle machine, or the type that is more interested in hiding behind the fridge. Especially if you have children, I think it’s really important to find them the right type of cat and ideally a cat that won’t mind a bit of manhandling! This is one advantage of adopting from a sanctuary or a fosterer; they know the animals well and can tell you exactly which ones would be a good match for your family. Also very important, do NOT adopt from a breeder or pet shop, this encourages more breeding which is definitely something Malta doesn’t need! If you prefer a pedigree cat, it is often possible to find one through the sanctuaries and fosterers as a shocking number are actually abandoned. I’ve had several Persians.
Another thing you could do is to make a donation to one of the following: Tomasina Cat Sanctuary, CSAF Sanctuary or SASG (Stray Animal Support Group). This last one helps to fund some of the feeding and veterinary costs for strays and rescues. Secondly, if you have strays in your area, why not write to your local council and encourage them to fund some neutering? This is done by Happy Paws Clinic in Marsa at quite a low cost to the council. Finally, if you REALLY want to help, why not consider fostering yourself? Having a litter of kittens at home for a few weeks could be quite fun and actually really educational for kids too. You’re welcome to message me if you’re interested in doing this and I’ll put you in touch with the right people. Kitten season is now upon us so we need all the help we can get!
Thank you for reading and if you’re interested in adopting a cat then please visit my page www.facebook.com/catandkittenadoptionsmalta where I constantly share photos of those looking for a loving home.
*Beth Hull is a 28 year old Brit who moved to Malta back in 2011 and currently works in Communications for WasteServ, who handle all the recycling in Malta. Passions and voluntary interests include BirdLife Malta (protecting wild birds), animal welfare (rescuing of cats and the occasional dog), scuba diving (sometimes doing surveys with Sharklab Malta) and anything else concerning the environment. She’s also really into arts and crafts such as knitting, spinning, pottery, sewing and cookery. Lives in a really old house in a traditional little village called Siggiewi where most of the locals look at her like she’s from planet Mars. Her only children so far have four feet! And there are 28 of those feet in total (do the math 😉 )