I first met Pilchard last winter when the weather was cold, bleak and wet. As I arrived with Karen, the kind person who’d contacted us and is one of her carers, Pilchard wobbled up to greet us. A tiny little tortoiseshell cat with bandy legs meowed loudly and persistently until we stooped to stroke her. I was both delighted and surprised at how healthy-looking and friendly she was for a long-term (a VERY long-term) community cat. This wasn’t the first time a Cats Protection volunteer had met Pilchard, although back then she didn’t have a name we knew of and was a wild little thing living amongst the bushes and trees surrounding a housing estate in Swansea. Back then, around 15 years ago, a concerned member of the public had called for our help after seeing 2 young cats apparently living in the area around the flats. By our assessment at the time the cats seemed in good shape, the area was very safe with no dangerous roads and plenty of natural shelter for them. Importantly, kind people nearby were more than happy to care for the new community cats, so Pilchard and her pal were humanely trapped by a Swansea Cats Protection volunteer, taken to be neutered by a vet, treated for fleas and worms, ear tipped (an internationally recognised sign that the cat has been neutered and returned) and once recovered, released back to their home outside. We call this process TNR – trap, neuter, return. If a cat is born outside, or has spent a significant time managing by themselves outdoors without direct human contact, they are best left where they are if it’s safe and if they have a source of food and adequate shelter. Pilchard was definitely such a cat and seemed suited to this life, and time has shown that she has thrived in this environment.
What a life!
We can estimate that Pilchard is now at least 15-16 years old and has lived a life outdoors for all this time. And what a life! In the very special place she calls home, this dear little cat has been cared for by many, many people through the years. And she has in turn become a special cat in their lives too. Some have known her for years – feeding and caring for her is part of their daily routine; others will have simply come across her and found her charms irresistible! Pilchard has had all sorts of cosy accommodation supplied for her over the years – from home-made shelters, to specially rigged-out cat carriers to make them waterproof and warm. She currently has a super-insulated wooden shelter with a little ramp leading up to the entrance, finished off with hand-knitted blankets inside for that homely touch. More recently, Karen has added a personalised ‘dining room’ shelter, especially made for Pilchard so she can dine contentedly without the bother of seagulls and magpies swooping in to steal her food!
Caring for Community Cats
Over the years kind and generous people have bought Pilchard her food and treats, and more recently Swansea Cats Protection has helped out with food donations given to us by our sup-porters. Many Community Cats are fed day in day out, year in year out, by kind people who are happy to share their neighbourhood with a cat or two. Cats like Pilchard, are not burdens on the community, they are very much part of it: they belong to the community, it’s their home too. Pilchard’s story is special because she has been so well cared for over the years: she’s had regular food, warm and dry shelter, lives in a safe area away from busy roads, vet care when needed and has been neutered…all are vital to maintaining a healthy and happy community cat. Darling Pilchard is in remarkably good health for her age – you can see this from the photos – for a puss in the autumn of her years, she’s in good shape apart from a twinge of arthritis. She’s a little hard of hearing these days too but can still make out when a car approaches and pops up her head to see if it means food! The lovely people who care for Pilchard groom her regularly and she is treated for fleas and worms. Importantly, havIng been neutered at the right age by Swansea Cats Protection, she’s not had to experience repeated pregnancies and has been free from the attention of unneutered male cats and the risk of illness and injury all this might’ve entailed. The positive impact of being neutered on the quality of life for both female and male cats is immeasurable – Pilchard is a lovely example of how long a cat can live a good life out-doors, if cared for and supported by the community.
Pilchard likes to be stroked, but definitely not to be picked up. She has been offered a life indoors but made her feelings very clear about this…she’s an outdoor girl through and through. Sometimes it’s difficult for people to see the world from her point of view, to look at life from the cat’s perspective – we assume all cats want a life primarily indoors but for cats like Pilchard, this is not the case. It may not have been her choice originally to live outside – she was possibly abandoned at a very young age, or maybe born outside, but she was allowed to keep her freedom, supported by the kindness of strangers over her long, long life. Be assured that her long-term carers, Karen and I will keep a close eye on this special little cat in the months and (hopefully) years to come to ensure she is safe, warm and well-fed. She’s part of the community 😸
We rely on the kind and generous donations of cat food (both dried and wet food) to help feed the many community cats living all over Swansea. Our volunteers distribute this food on a regular basis to the many wonderful people who care for cats in their community and work places. If you’d like to make a donation of cat food (we’re particularly low on dried food at the moment) we have special Cats Protection donation bins in the following shops, or if you have large amounts to donate, please call our helpline and one of our volunteers should be able to collect it or suggest a location for you to drop it off….which is always helpful.
Cat food donation bin locations
- Killay Co-op, Mumbles Co-op, Brynhyfryd Co-op and Gowerton Co-op
- Pet Hut/Poundstretcher in Gorseinon, Llansamlet and Pontardawe
- Pets at Home Parc Tawe
- Swansea Cats Protection charity shops in Mumbles and Brynymor Road (no bin, so please hand to shop volunteers)
A little update on homing our lovely rescue cats and kittens….
As Covid-19 restrictions are being eased we are delighted to be able to restart homing again…. hooray! Some of the cats came in before lockdown, so have been waiting a long time for the chance of a new home. We are currently operating a ‘hands-free’ homing procedure using Covid-19 safety measures, which you can read all about on our website. The first cats to be homed using this new process were darling Snoopy and Cindy, who featured in Bay last month. We waved them off through tears of joy…. they are now settled and happy in their wonderful new home. But we have many more cats and kittens coming into our care who need safe, loving homes…. why not take a look at our website?
If you are interested in adopting one of our lovely cats or kittens, please call our helpline or go to our Facebook page or website to read about our new ‘hands free’ homing system, which will operate in line with Welsh Government advice on safety and social distancing.
We can be contacted via our Helpline 0345 260 2101 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Please note our Helpline is answered by a messaging service and we will respond as soon as we can – but please be patient and remember that we are ALL UNPAID VOLUNTEERS trying to do our best for the rescue cats and kittens of Swansea. Thanks.