Local Hero: Community Cat Carers to the Rescue
Though you won’t find dogs running around Sydney’s streets causing havoc – you will find cats because, by legislation, they’re free to roam. “The cats in the urban environment are there because of irresponsible pet owners,” reports Community Cat Carers president Michael Goldberg.
“It’s not the cats’ problem – they’re just in the wrong place at the wrong time. People not keeping their cats indoors or restrained is why it’s a community problem.”
Community Cat Carers provides first aid and rehabilitation to sick and/or injured cats and kittens, and runs cat refuges in the inner west.
“Currently we have between 150 and 160 cats in care, spread between four refuges,” says Goldberg. “Many of these cats are permanent residents because they can’t be homed. They’re not socialised or they’re sick or there’s something wrong with them.”
They’re assessed in terms of their ‘home-ability’: whether they can be adopted or taken to a refuge then released to colonies that are suitably administered and looked after.
The average size of a colony is 12-15 cats. Colony cats will stay around if it’s safe and people feed them. If they don’t have to go search for their food, they won’t. This means they’re not a threat to wildlife.
“With the colonies monitored by us, we don’t have any evidence of them catching any native wildlife,” Goldberg reports. “The one thing that is plentiful – that they will get – are rats and other vermin: that’s the very good part.”
However councils don’t take in pregnant cats or pick up kittens nor does the RSPCA, which leaves such independent rescue charities to do it. So often Community Cat Carers is notified about pregnant cats, taking the kittens at an appropriate age – around five weeks, to try and find homes for them.
In the past calendar year, Community Cat Carers has, impressively, found homes for about 80 cats/kittens.
Adoption events are held at Bunnings, PetO and various other pet stores. Animals are also advertised individually online on the Community Cat Carers site.
However the hardest thing is to raise enough money to keep the support going. Without a permanent building, Community Cat Carers relies on around eight people who are permanent volunteers – who all work from their homes.
“It’s all public funding; we receive no subsidy from the City of Sydney nor from the NSW Government,” says Goldberg.
“The only effective long term solution is to try to shrink the colonies through de-sexing programs,” states Goldberg.
Community Cat Carers has established de-sexing programs around Redfern and Waterloo – resulting in some colonies being reduced by up to 80 per cent.
And how did Goldberg get involved? “I live in Redfern and I was just walking along one day and discovered a lot of cats hanging around a particular building. I went online, found Community Cat Carers and told them about the problem.”
Over time, he ended up de-sexing eight cats, returning them, then feeding them – resulting in a permanent colony and project. Then they invited him to come on board and help organise things, which is how he got more involved.
A former university lecturer, Goldberg’s organising skills greatly assist with the charity’s administration. “As far as the rescue, the rehabilitation, and looking after the refuge cats, people build up experience; I think there’s a phenomenal degree of experience and knowledge that they (the volunteers) have, and how cats should be kept correctly and appropriately.”
There are areas for isolation and for sick animals as well as quality cages. These facilities are all top-shelf, he assures – not crazy cat people with lots of cats running around the house.
“It’s pretty much run like the RSPCA, except it’s done on a domestic scale,” says Goldberg.
And how does listening to radio help? “I listen to Eastside FM all the time; I’m a great fan. I do a lot of travelling with the animals to and fro from events, so I always have Eastside playing. All the shows are great. My favourites are blues and jazz, and there’s a lot of that on Eastside!”
To find out more about Community Cat Carers, its various projects and most interesting cases, check out the Community Cat Carers Facebook page.