There are a vast number of cats in Almonaster la Real, in fact far more than people. Most are feral, fed by generous cat-lovers, or from what they can find for themselves in the various municipal rubbish bins. Until 2019 the local council considered them a public pest and each month rounded them up for extermination, including sadly many who did have homes.
We were appalled at such barbaric attitudes, and with a group of friends set about to create a cat rescue project: ANIMALES PROTEGIDOS EN ALMONASTER LA REAL.
This was in 2017. Since then the group has grown in numbers and done incredible work. The council have also finally recognised the rights of all cats.
El Pocito became one of the first of many sanctuaries where un-owned cats could live out their days in safety. Residents included (photos above):
PLUSH: who was born on a busy street in nearby Cortegana in 2008, and now lives in Shetland.
WOOLLEY: re-homed from Alajar in 2010, now lives in Shetland.
OSO: who turned up at El Pocito when his owner moved and left him behind, now lives in Shetland.
NOAH: who also turned up at El Pocito, from a home three kilometres away, now lives in Shetland.
CLARENCE: who was originally born in Yorkshire, had many different homes and owners, including on Orkney and Shetland, then came to live at El Pocito, where he died aged 19.
ZORRO: who turned up at El Pocito from town.
JULES: also just turned up.
TIMOTHY: also turned up.
One of the main activities of the group is sterilisation, to keep the population down to a sustainable number.
If you are interested in helping with this (CES/ TNR Trap Neuter Return), here is our first attempt at a short video showing how easy it is. All you need is a trap/ crush box (both supplied free by SNIP International)/ and sympathetic vet…. good luck!
The blog (up ’til we left)
(latest news first)
● WEDNESDAY 21 AUGUST 2019. We have now completed two colonies in town, sterilising a total of 45 cats. The shop is full of great stuff and getting more popular each Saturday (needs to be open more days!). Hoping someone will come along now and take over from Pauline and me, for it is not long before we leave in September.
● WEDNESDAY 31 JULY 2019. After a very slow time at the charity shop (and still waiting for the grant from the local council, announced in February) we raised enough money to sterilise some more cats. The total is now 42. Two colonies in the town now are almost done and we hope to move on to a new one soon.
● FRIDAY 12 APRIL 2019. 35 cats neutered now.
● SUNDAY 24 FEBRUARY 2019. Have completely forgotten to add any stuff for a while now, but the good news is the project continues to thrive. Our membership is still the same pitifully small number, though there are now 29 neutered cats, and the local council has agreed to give us an initial 500 euros towards more neutering, plus cover all our printing expenses. We need a lot more money to be effective, any ideas would be really welcome.
● SUNDAY 18 NOVEMBER 2018. Just to say we have planned a Christmas Market outside the shop for 7th & 8th December. Anyone who wants a stall please get in touch (WhatsApp 633 731 906). To date we have neutered 17 cats, in Calle Los Recueros and Calle Los Naranjos. There are about 35 more feral cats in the latter, most of them ginger and female, very odd.
● MONDAY 5 NOVEMBER 2018. The shop is beginning to fill up with stock at long last, and the locals are beginning to realise it is here, though tourists remain our major customers/ donors . In an attempt to raise awareness in town, this Saturday (10th November) Pauline will be sharing her 60th birthday with all-comers. Turn up around midday and you get free cake!
● TUESDAY 16 OCTOBER 2018. Two bits of news. First, the local council has refused to take on its legal responsibility caring for the street cats. We applied to them last July for a modest grant to do the job (for them), in the annual round of funding local groups, and while every other application was granted ours was denied. Yet another case of not what you know, but who you know. If anyone reading this is a local solicitor we would appreciate some free advice/ support.
The second, is that our Saturday stall (crafts and donated second-hand items) has found a new home. Now it is getting cooler on the Plaza we would appreciate a place that is under cover, and it has been found in the downstairs floor of a house next to the Salon de Actos. We will be there, as usual, from 11:00-14:00.
● TUESDAY 24 JULY 2018. Two more cats trapped and sterilised. Total: 11.
● TUESDAY 10 JULY 2018. Second trapping adventure. This time got five cats in five minutes, before 8am, must be some kind of record. Packed them all into the back of the van and headed off to the vet in Aracena. Four males and one female. We have now done nine cats. Not a lot, compared to how many are left, but a good start. Now have to raise the money to do another five. If you would like to help sponsor a neutering please get in touch.
● FRIDAY 6 JULY 2018. Forgot to add the Association now is official and has a stall on the town square every Saturday 11am – 2pm. Selling anything we can make or get given. All proceeds go to paying the vet for the sterilisations. All other costs are currently being paid for out of the pockets of our committee members.
● FRIDAY 15 JUNE 2018. On Wednesday, after four mornings of feeding/ acclimatisation, the new association trapped its first seven cats. Three turned out to be pregnant so couldn’t go, but the other four, three females and one male, were duly transported to Aracena, where Francisco & Rosa (CLINICA VETERINARIO RIVERO APARACIO) did the necessary. All went smoothly, except much later we discovered one of the cats still had a needle in its leg, and while we tried to extricate that it took fright and hid in a void space in the van. Finally emerging at 10.30pm. The next day the needle had disappeared and all is well. All in all, for the first attempt, not bad. Now all we need is the necessary funds to do this every week, until we get all 300+ cats done. It is highly unlikely the local council will come up with the money, so if you have any ideas please get in touch. Below are some pictures, starting with Dolores, who feeds the street cats we trapped this week.
● TUESDAY 5 JUNE 2018. How slowly everything moves here! Finally SNIP INTERNATIONAL, a charity that donates equipment towards getting cats neutered, has sent us a trap and crush boxes. We meanwhile have raised enough money to start that process and hope to take our first street cats to the vet next week.
● SUNDAY 21 JANUARY 2018. Too boring to report back on meetings currently, as a bout of spanish fiesta inertia has struck the group hard and is proving hard to break. New blood needed to stir folk into action. But the good news is the stall at the Christmas market raised 200+ euros, and we received the first donation (from two pensioners in Manchester) which means there is money to start the neutering. If you can help by supporting us financially please get in touch.
● TUESDAY 12 DECEMBER 2017. Having spent last Saturday helping the Aracena group PELUDOS SIERRA DE ARACENA raise money/ awareness outside the Mercadona supermarket, this coming week the group will its first fund-raising event as part of the three-day Almonaster la Real Christmas market, this Friday/ Saturday/ Sunday. Members have been busy making Christmas related things to sell.
● TUESDAY 28 NOVEMBER 2017. Forming a group in Spain obviously takes a lot of more effort than imagined. The forms for creating an Association have moved one more (tiny) step further, but still a way to go. Very frustrating. Meanwhile the Council is continuing to use a cat extermination service to solve any complaints from the small but well-connected minority of residents in town.
● WEDNESDAY 15th NOVEMBER 2017. Another well attended meeting. A President and Vice-President have been elected and the application to become an Association is just lacking a Treasurer now. There is the possibility of using an empty shop in town for a pop-up fund-raising location (selling things the group members have made or given). And an application has been made to SNIP to start us off with some cat traps and transfer baskets. At the next meeting it is hoped to watch the Webinar from Alley Cat Allies, all about TNR.
● WEDNESDAY 1st NOVEMBER 2017. The two new FB pages (one in english, the other in spanish) have been well received, already people are posting on them about abandoned animals, alas before there is the money to neuter them and arrange suitable re-homing. Work is almost done on getting the articles of Association document written. Website is next job. A storage facility has been found for equipment and food, so once the initial £2000 needed to buy the former is received it can go in there. If there is anyone reading this willing to donate that amount it can be sent direct to the manufacturers, as the Association does not yet have a bank account.
● WEDNESDAY 18th OCTOBER 2017. Second meeting, with two new faces in attendance, including the vet from Clínica Veterinaria Rivero Aparicio in Aracena, who has agreed to do the neutering for us at an amazing price of just 35 euros per cat. We discussed what needs to be put in the document forming the association, and fund-raising ideas. A new Facebook page has been created: Animales protegidos en Almonaster la Real – english, where we hope to raise the necessary funds from supporters in the UK in order to start work. 2000 euros is needed straight away, to buy the necessary trapping equipment, which we hope can be paid by a single donor direct to the manufacturer, then 35 euros per cat (approximately 2000 euros a year).
● WEDNESDAY 4th OCTOBER 2017. And our first ever meeting. By 7pm only the mayor and his deputy had turned up (to mark their territory!), but eventually people began to arrive, and the group officially started. By the end we had a WhatsApp group (Felinos y perretes), let me know if you want to join, and a FACEBOOK page (Asociación de amigos de los animales Almonaster La Real-Huelva). But would also like a webpage presence too, so if anyone reading this could put that together (which we can then add stuff to) please get in touch. Our next meeting will be in two weeks time, when we hope to formally apply for Association status and start the fundraising programme. It will cost about £2000 to buy all the trapping equipment, then another £20,0000 a year to neuter the street cats. It is hoped to raise as much of that as possible from UK supporters, so let us know if you have any ideas about how we can do that.
● SUNDAY 1st OCTOBER 2017, and we’ve finally organised a public meeting for WEDNESDAY 4th OCTOBER. It’s going to be at the TETERIA AL-ANDALUS, 7pm. Everyone welcome. Where we hope to formally create an association, plus discuss the plans to neuter all the street cats, and fundraising ideas (including a stall at the forthcoming Islamicas in two weeks time?). If you can’t make it but would like to help in any way please get in touch (WhatsApp + 44 0797 996 5876 or firstname.lastname@example.org). Fundraising ideas (and donations) really welcome.