Feral cat in SicilyPoisoned? No! My vision of the last time I had seen Lizzie, lying so contently, blinking in the sunlight was harshly destroyed. Some cat hater had thrown down poisoned meat and she and her family were dead. My grief was followed by anger then by determination. Lizzie, I realised, represented a symbol, awakening my energy to act in these cats’ defence. And so, Catsnip was launched.

My first step was to consult people who were running successful neutering and treatment projects. Suddenly the world appeared thronging with these feisty women who did something practical for felines.

            Suzy Gale, animal welfare campaigner who’s run successful programmes in Cyprus, told me: ‘It involves a lot of hard work and heartbreak, too.’ 

            Undeterred, I opened a bank account and set about raising funds. I wrote to various charities, explaining my aims: ‘to take a team of vet, nurse and helpers to Sicily to treat and neuter feral cats, considering that the local authorities do nothing to ameliorate the problem’. To my delight they responded with grants.

            But where to operate?  I telephoned Elke.

‘I have an idea,’ she said at last. ‘Remember Ines, the woman who lived in the downstairs apartment where you stayed? She has a summerhouse – it’s big and secluded. It would be the perfect place. No one would see what we were doing.’

            ‘And the vet?’

            ‘Leave it with me.’

            Within days she was back to me. Yes, Ines had said we could use the summerhouse and she had managed to persuade an American friend, Frankie, who was a vet to volunteer his services. All I had to do was pay for his flight from the States.

Feral cat in SicilyI began to assemble the equipment I would need. There were traps and cages to order, which would be sent by road and delivered upon my arrival in Sicily. Guy, my sister’s vet, had given me a list of drugs and equipment I would need for the ‘surgery’.  I became increasingly bold in asking people to give me things. I wrote to several drug companies and some of them donated necessary medicines. My local hospital offered forceps and scissors. Other equipment I had to buy from veterinary supply firms.

Finally, I was faced with the problem of how to get the drugs and surgical supplies from the UK to Sicily. Here my ignorance proved a blessing: I had absolutely no idea of the nature of ketamine, the drug used by vets in the absence of inhalant anaesthetic. I knew nothing about its use as a recreational drug. To me, it was an item on my list of veterinary drugs and I treated it as such.  I shudder to think of what I was doing when I packed everything into a large box, covered it with brown paper and labelled it SICILIAN CAT WELFARE.

No problems! At the airport, I watched, relieved, as it disappeared into the chute. On the plane, I relaxed and ordered a glass of wine – I was on my way.

To read a review of Jennifer's book: The Great Sicilian Cat Rescue, click on the link:



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