Interview with Mandy Hobbis – Co-founder of CatsMatter
It takes courage to place one’s head above the parapet and it takes determination and vision to raise awareness about a subject few people have on their radar. However, when the paths of Mandy Hobbis and Tiya Hollie collided, having both suffered similar circumstances with the deaths of their cats on the road, an explosion of thoughts and ideas became the catalyst for CatsMatter, now a recognised and respected charity.
CatsMatter has gone from strength to strength and has armed thousands of cat guardians with knowledge regarding cats and the road, bringing awareness, safety tips and a safe platform to share memories and gain support around pet grief.
I caught up with Mandy Hobbis to find out more about her incredible journey so far and how a small germ of an idea grew into such a powerful movement.
- What’s your first memory of cats as a child?
My mum took in a cat called Moppet from her neighbour. The neighbours didn’t care about Moppet and she’d be out all hours in all weathers. When they saw how my mum cared for her they asked my mum to take her off their hands and she did.
Moppet lived to around 20 years old, which is a fantastic age for 30+ years ago. She was with us for the first 7/8 years of my life so I was brought up with cats from the start. I remember sitting in the garden with her, but not much else being so young. It has always felt so natural and normal that a cat should share the home with me. I haven’t known it any other way.
- Have you been a cat guardian all of your life and what do cats mean to you?
Yes. I really couldn’t imagine life without cats! I’ve always been one of these people that stop to stroke every animal they see and was like this as a child too. It was in my late teens that I started to understand how cats were that extra bit special and how we can have such a strong bond with an animal – way beyond just having a pet you love.
Again, a neighbour of mine didn’t want their cat, Mosh, so we took him in. He was extra special. He’d always be there when you needed him and always seemed to know the right thing to do, whether it is to comfort you or cheer you up and it always worked. I remember I had a period where I’d suffer from panic attacks and Mosh was the only thing which helped me calm down to the point I wouldn’t be the same without him there. He’d always demand to get in to bed like a human as well and sleep next to me with his body under the covers, and head sticking out snoring. It was Mosh that made me see how such a special bond could be formed with an animal, and really propelled cats to the top of my ‘favourite animal’ list. It doesn’t feel right to call him a pet. He was an equal and a best friend. All my cats are firmly equal family members who are treated no different to children. I have, and have had, so many different species of animals living with us, but there’s just something different about cats, something deeper I’m sure the majority of readers will understand what I mean.
- For those that do not know about the charity ‘CatsMatter’ can you talk us through how it started and what are your main aims?
We’re a campaign group aiming to challenge the laws surrounding the lack of cats’ rights on the road, as well as to raise awareness and change mind sets.
CatsMatter started when Tiya Hollie Ivy (co-founder) lost her cat Henry to the road in 2017, which was shortly after I lost my cat Snowy to the road also. Neither driver stopped to help them. Henry was intentionally hit (as believed by his vet) and left to drag him to the side of the road before succumbing to his injuries at his front gate. Snowy was just left at the roadside and the council came, scooped him up and sent him off to landfill without checking for a microchip. Both Tiya and myself started individually petitioning but we both suffered from increased frustration after a long line of failed petitions. I came across a video on Facebook about Henry that Tiya had made to help with her campaign. It made me cry so I contacted her and we discussed our own individual petitions and plans. We soon realised each other had exactly what the other needed to really help propel the message and get out of the dead-end we were in. That’s when we decided to team up.
Our main aim is getting legislation in place, so cats have some rights on the road is vital, but it’s just as important to educate people about what they can do if they find themselves in a situation where they have hit a cat whilst driving, or found a deceased cat in the road. There has always been the mentality that ‘it’s just a cat’ but it’s good to see mindsets changing. Sometimes we find people simply don’t know how they can help, or what they can or should do if they hit a cat, which is why education is just as important as the law.
No law in the world could ever stop accidents happening, and it would be impossible to stop all cats being hit by cars. However, there is no justification for a driver to flee the scene if one does occur. What we want is for drivers to be required to stop and help or report incidents, so as cats stand a much better chance of survival and are not left alone, scared and in pain roadside. We hear of cats being left for days with horrific injuries, as well as cats dragging themselves home with broken backs or limbs. The UK’s current and previous governments claim they lead the way on animal welfare! We’re not interested in whatever circumstances led to cats being on or near the road in the first place. It’s simply about the their welfare and our firm belief is that cats are worthy of being helped and given a second chance at life, as well as cat owners being informed of the circumstances of how or where their cat died, if accidents are fatal.
We try to educate on every scenario possible, because it’s not easy to say whether someone did or didn’t stop to help a cat they may have hit. There are issues such as cats running off so a driver is unable to find and help them, cats not being identifiable, services being closed after hours, and so many other scenarios to hinder people trying to help a cat on the road. This is why we didn’t want to focus purely on a campaign to change the law. We wanted a wealth of information easily accessible to inform people how they can help, no matter what situation arises or whatever time of day or night it is. As with most things, people don’t tend to give it much thought until it impacts them. It’s only when it happened to Tiya and myself that we learnt how little information or help there is out there for people whose cats have been hit by a car. That’s what our charity CatsMatter aims to change.
- At what stage did you think CatsMatter should become a charity and what’s the protocol for setting up a charity from an initial campaign? Was it easy or tough?
Tiya decided the website would initially serve as a central point for people to go for help and to speak to like-minded people who understood. This was because, when it happened to us, there was nowhere to go to speak to anyone, or get support. There were cat sites, but it wasn’t quite the same. It started as a central point of support for grieving owners, then progressed to advice. We started to do a lot of work with councils, aiming to get them scanning the cats they collected and notifying the owners, but cuts meant that many didn’t have funds for the equipment. This kept cropping up so we decided to try and buy them the kit they needed – they’d have no excuse then. That led onto raising funds to be able to buy the council equipment. One day we realised our cause was getting bigger than just a campaign page so we had to make it all proper and official.
- Is CatsMatter your full time job now? If not, what do you do for work aside from run CatsMatter.
CatsMatter is a part time job really for all of us. Tiya works in marketing, Carlie Power, our assistant, works in a pub and I’m a ranger at a National Trust branch, a job I love.
- How many other people are on the team? Perhaps you could us a little about them?
I think some people think we’re a large organisation but there’s just 3 of us who work at CatsMatter. However, we have some fantastic supporters who have created posters or other items for us, as a way of raising funds in memory of their cats, which is so special to us.
Tiya is fantastic, and I really do praise her for taking CatsMatter to where it is today. She would modestly say otherwise but she really did take things to the next level. Before Tiya’s involvement, I struggled to be taken seriously and people probably saw my name flash up in their inbox and thought ‘oh no, it’s that mad cat woman again’! We were both campaigning individually but we both lacked what the other could offer to really take our campaigns anywhere beyond where we already had. Tiya works in marketing and design, so she was able to create a professional campaign, which got people listening and taking our cause seriously. I’m useless at technical things like that and there’s no way I could have taken CatsMatter where it stands today without her. I, on the other hand, have an understanding of current laws and official workings, which Tiya would admit loses her at times. Together we’ve become the perfect force.
Carlie came to us a little later, but is the glue that binds everything and keeps our morale up. Tiya and myself are quite particular in our areas, but Carlie brings the fun and her personality to it. A perfect example is at official meetings at DEFRA or in Parliament. I’m the regimented one who will slap a huge pile of papers on the desk ready to give an hour-long speech, but Carlie will be over in the corner talking to everyone about football or where she got her bag from, making them feel comfortable, like she’s known them all her life. Carlie reminds me to chill out now and again and to enjoy the experience, and I think she probably reminds ministers as well because they all seem to love her. It’s a perfect mix of personalities and qualities, which just seem to work. Oh, and we’re all cat obsessed, which certainly helps!
- What type of support are you receiving from the public and do you ever get some negative responses or misunderstandings about your intentions?
To be honest, we usually get positive comments. People generally have treated us very well and we definitely feel like people are behind our goals and us.
Sometimes we get quizzed on our ideas, such as how a law would be enforced exactly, but those people are mostly supportive and genuinely intrigued. People usually ask the same questions, but I personally like it when people ask difficult questions because, if we hadn’t already, it’s more than likely we will be asked these same questions in the future by government officials.
We have seen first-hand how much effort and research goes into the creation of legislation, and how open it is to scrutiny in the important phases. It only takes one official to influence an entire team to have doubts and think twice. Difficult questions spur us on to do further research in areas we might not have previously thought of, which will ultimately lead us to having the very best answers when challenged.
Every so often we might face some negativity, but they are always the same comments from concerns about cats ‘killing all the wildlife’ to ‘cats toileting in my garden’ – all completely irrelevant to aiding an injured cat that has been hit by a car or reporting an incident of course. We’ve come to accept not everyone likes cats and that comments of this nature would probably still be written on any post to do with cats.
- Where would you say the law is now in terms of reporting road traffic accidents involving cats?
Technically non-existent unfortunately. However, things are definitely changing. It’s been such a long road, but at last we’re being heard. We worked with MP Rehman Chishti on The ‘Cats Bill’ (1) which is pushing for a change in the law, calling for the compulsory microchipping of cats, as well as the requirement to report a road traffic accident resulting in the injury or death of a cat to the relevant authorities and this seemed to be a major turning point. Rehman has been a true champion for cats raising their profile in Parliament. There were a few twists and turns, but ultimately it was with Rehman’s help we initially got invited to meet DEFRA officials to speak more about our plans for CatsMatter. At the time, Michael Gove was Environment Secretary and, as a cat owner himself, he paved the way for us to be seriously listened to at last, and we were. Back then, at the time of the election in December, we had managed to persuade Labour to include cats and road accidents, as well as mandatory microchipping in their manifesto, as with the Conservatives. After the election, things really got underway. Currently, legislation is going through for all cats in England to be microchipped, which is the first stage, as cats need to be identifiable for reporting accidents. In line with this, ministers are working on releasing a version of a best practice guide we wrote, aiding councils on the scanning of cats they collect. Already, large organisations such as Transport For London are awaiting its release so that they can endorse it. In terms of the reporting of road accidents, this will be revisited once the microchipping legislation comes in, but it was discussed with interest internally last year. Ministers have shown great interest in our alternative ideas to the Road Traffic Act, and we’re really optimistic about where things will go in the near future. The time of cats being legally viewed as worthless and less important than dogs is swiftly coming to an end.
- On your website you talk about a National Animal Road Accident Awareness Day. Can you talk the reader through how that came about and what can people learn from this day?
We’re really excited for October when National Animal Road Accident Awareness Day comes around. We’d love every day to be a day when drivers think of animals on the road, but an official day will really help propel the message far and wide. It really helps to get people talking and thinking. We hope the media and other organisations theme their day’s work on our message, and we hope to involve ministers and MPs as well to prompt discussion on future change. Sadly, everyone knows someone who has lost a beloved pet on the road, so we would also like it to double up as a day when people can share their experiences and pay tribute to their much loved lost pets.
Although our campaign is centred on cats, we’re all animal lovers generally and appreciate that this is not just happening to cats. Millions of animals lose their lives on UK roads every year, and we would like drivers to think about all animals. Just because there isn’t a devastated human owner behind some animals, it doesn’t mean their lives are not also worthy of being given a chance. For our awareness day, we teamed up with the Starlight Trust Animal Rescue, as they specialise in wildlife rescue. Rather than just advise people to take injured wildlife to the nearest vet, the Starlight Trust have a fantastic tool where people can swiftly search for their nearest wildlife rehabilitator, who are much better equipped to handle certain species and their specific needs.
Above all, we hope it will get people thinking differently about animals they hit whilst driving and hopefully they will think twice about just driving off. Rather than see ‘just a fox’ or ‘just a badger’, we hope to tap into drivers sympathy and compassion and make them rethink their actions which can stop another living beings pain and suffering.
One special thing for me personally is the date of the awareness day. The girls were happy for us to use October, as it’s the season that sees the most road traffic accidents involving cats. It’s also the date my first cat Mosh lost his life to the road. After being a free roamer of 18 years coming home every night with not so much as a cut or graze on him, he was hit by a car who then sped off. He was left with multiple broken bones and fractures, unable to move, for 4 days until my brother eventually found him alive. The vet battled to save him, but we had to let him go in the end. Having the awareness day on the date he lost his fight is a little tribute to him.
- What are your thoughts regarding free roaming cats and do your opinions differ from urban to country settings?
CatsMatter always collectively say that it doesn’t matter how a cat got in front of the car in the first place, we’re about seeking help for those that have. We try hard to distance ourselves from the in/out argument and focus our efforts on advocating responsible cat ownership. What responsible pet ownership means to us is simply considering your unique circumstances and adopting the best option for your cat based on their welfare. For some that would mean keeping them restrained by a catio/fencing, for others that would mean letting them free roam. We’ve spoken to people who work long hours and live by a motorway, yet allow their cat to free roam day and night while they’re out. Others have acres of land and are miles from the nearest public road, yet they have indoor only cats. For me, it’s impossible to say whether all cats should be indoor, or all should be outdoor. It must come down to owners being responsible and using common sense. I’ve always had outdoor roamers, but I am sold on the idea of cat fencing personally (2). For me it’s peace of mind, as the potential dangers are ever increasing now, and I admit it petrifies me what could happen. My trust towards some people out there is non-existent when it comes to animals, especially my own. I admit to having been on the obsessive side in the past, looking out of windows suspiciously at anyone walking past trying to stroke my cat, or wondering what the neighbour’s planting, or being on edge waiting for him to put the lid back on his water sprinkler. Cat proof fencing really takes that stress away so you don’t have to worry what everyone else is up to and how their actions could affect your cats. I do understand how it’s not so simple for everyone to have fencing though, even if they would like it, nor would I hold judgement. A lot of people now rent, have shared gardens, or live in flats with no garden. Responsible pet ownership is simply owners doing the very best for their pet with what they have, given their circumstances. Every owner who does that is a good and loving pet parent in my view.
- What advice does CatsMatter give both cat owners and drivers in situations when a cat has disappeared and is feared to maybe have been hit by a car?
Unfortunately, pet owners are working against the clock as vets and councils only hold animals for a short period. Most people assume something bad has happened to their missing cat yet it’s very common for cats to get stuck in places, such as sheds, and return a few days later. We speak to countless people who contact us, asking for advice on how to get hold of their local council (who they believe has found their cat deceased on the road), only to be told their cat has walked back through the door days later. However, It’s wise to cover all avenues in a search, especially due to short holding times, but instantly assuming the worst could be detrimental to someone’s search. Tip number 1 has to be ‘never give up hope’
Naturally, a microchipped cat has much more chance of being reunited with their owner, so people must chip their pets and make sure details are always kept up to date, especially their phone number and email address which are most commonly used. Even if a cat is microchipped, it’s still worth following the protocols we advise for searches of cats not chipped, just in case they don’t get scanned or, as is in rare cases, their microchips malfunction. We do hear occasionally of microchips breaking in a collision so it’s always worth covering every avenue. We advise people contact all local shelters, vets and councils to check if any cat was recently brought in matching their cat’s description. Also put a photo and details of the missing cat on local social media pages, which tends to have quite a high success rate, as well as uploading the details to external websites such as The Lost Cat Register, Pets Reunited, etc.
One of the most effective things any owner can do is to canvas the area. Enquire with neighbours, and ask them to check sheds. Make up flyers with your cat’s photo and details on asking if anyone has seen them and can they check outbuildings. It may sound silly to some, asking that they check in their sheds, but its unbelievably common. Also, walk around the area calling every night when noise levels are low, which will aid hearing any call back. Cats can get stuck in all kinds of places, so searchers shouldn’t always assume their cat will instantly run out from somewhere at the shake of the Dreamies. Injured cats will hide in bushes, or in places such as under sheds or cars, so listen for calls back and check unusual places they could hide or get stuck in. Instinct tells cats they could fall victim to predators when injured, so their instinct is to remain as quiet and hidden as possible. This doesn’t help us in our search, especially when it could stop them calling back in fear of giving their position away, so using a torch at night could be useful to locate them through their eye shine, without them making a sound.
A cats sense of smell is also 40 times better than ours, so it’s also advised people leave their litter tray outside and things such as unwashed bedding and an item of your clothing, to aid them making their own way home if they are lost. It’s quite shocking how many cats are eventually located just a few streets from where they vanished from, so although this trick might seem pointless to some, it could really be just what the cat needs to get their bearings and make their way back home. Something minor can, and often does, make a cat run in fear – just that little bit too far for them to know which way is home. Or perhaps something will make them fearful enough to discourage any attempt to go back, such as a dog or other cat scaring them away. The key is to try everything, as there are a hundred different reasons they didn’t come home, and we have to give them the very best chance and assume nothing until we know for sure. For further tips please read an article I wrote here: https://katzenworld.co.uk/2016/12/05/advice-for-cat-owners-of-lost-cats/
- For owners who choose to allow their cat(s) to be free roaming what would your advice be to keep them safe? Any tips for them?
Owners can certainly play a huge role in helping keep them as safe as possible, although nothing is ever fool-proof. Some factors could be beyond an owner’s control, such as personality or breed or the actions of neighbourhood cats causing our cats to roam further than we’d like. Ideally though, you want to discourage roaming as much as possible and try and keep them close to home.
Rule number 1 has to be microchipping, which is soon to be compulsory anyway but already something owners should be doing regardless. Microchips are their cats’ only voice once they are outside, and we would even go as far as to say a microchip could determine their cat’s fate in a life or death situation. Vets are only obliged to administer pain relief to cats, and we have heard of many sadly being euthanised because no owner could be located for further treatment. A microchip is also the only way someone can be notified if the worst does sadly happen, and I can confirm it’s much better to have proper closure than a life of never fully knowing the truth. While peoples’ cats are at the vet getting a microchip, it’s also wise to spay or neuter them as well. Apart from the many other benefits, a de-sexed cat will roam much less.
Collars with cat guardian contact numbers are useful, as any finder can swiftly give them a call, rather than remove the cat or wait for them to be scanned. The problem is, only quick release collars are advised, and cats can lose them easily, so it should never replace a microchip. We would never advise on brightly coloured collars, especially neon reflective ones. Sadly, while these can help some drivers spot them more easily, it also makes them a target. Studies conducted previously, including one of our own (3), have shown reflective collars increase the chance of being hit by a car.
We would also advise owners get into the habit of bringing cats in overnight, when most road incidents occur, as well as getting into the habit of bringing them in if they are going out, even just popping to the shops. If no one in your house is home, or you have gone to bed, your cats should be inside safe. When they are outside, we can motivate them to stay close by with few simple tricks. They can sleep for up to 12 – 16 hours so all we need to do is provide some good sunbathing spots, or little dens, in the garden where they can rest up. As everyone knows, they get bored easily so mix it up simply by putting a new blanket out, or even fresh new box every couple of days or so. Make your garden ‘the place to be’ in their eyes.
Bribery also goes a long way with cats, so making yourself visible with the Goody bags and Dreamies every so often will prompt them to stay close by so as not to miss out.
If a cat is roaming more than owner would like, it could be worth finding out why they are wandering off, and to where. Many cats have a ‘second home’, some of which will unfortunately cross busy roads to get to. If owners fear this, pop a paper collar on your cat with a message and your phone number to try and speak to the feeder to find out more. Maybe their cat roams due to a neighbour’s cat? If a cat feels threatened in their own space, they will wander elsewhere to safer ground.
Easy access is another key thing. If a cat tries to get into their home when it’s raining but can’t, they could shelter under cars or other potentially dangerous places. Or if they are hungry and can’t get in, they could wander off looking for food elsewhere. Fitting a cat flap gives them the option to safely get in when they need to. They do high-tech cat flaps now, which record what time cats went out and returned.
- What’s the biggest misconception do you feel regarding cats and owners? Possibly around the subject of the CatsMatter message?
One that springs to mind instantly is some on social media claim allowing a cat to free roam means the owner doesn’t care, which is nonsense. Having had free roamers myself, I know you would need to go a long way to find anyone who loved their cats as much as I do, and I know many of those with free roamers feel the same way and it’s certainly not an indicator of how much an owner loves them. We encourage debate on the issue in a constructive way, but sometimes people put their opinion across in a way which almost suggests a cat deserved it, and question why the owner is so surprised. We never stand for that, not only because it’s not true but also because it upsets grieving owners who are already going through so much mentally. Social media is a global entity with culture differences colliding online many times. A free roaming cat is frowned upon in some countries and I think some struggle with why it’s so normal in the UK, and visa versa. People just have to appreciate the differences in why others do things differently. We don’t have high kill shelters or wild animals posing a threat to our cats, nor do we have curfews like some countries have where cats are killed and owners fined should their cat be found outside after a certain time.
Another misconception is that cats should be treated equally to dogs and be put under the same legislation as dogs. I get the rationale behind people questioning why dogs are treated one way and cats aren’t, but it’s a bit more complex than that. We want a similar outcome for cats, as is already in place for dogs, but the two sets of legislation could never be identical. The Road Traffic Act, which states drivers must report hitting a dog to the police, includes animals which are all restrained animals, such as cows, sheep and so on. The Road Traffic Act is not designed with animal welfare in mind; it’s designed with the safety of drivers in mind. Restrained/tethered animals should not be free roaming anywhere near roads, and by drivers reporting they have hit a dog while driving, it will likely lead to a fine for the owner of the dog for allowing them to cause a hazard to vehicles and humans life. For cats to be ‘treated the same as dogs’, it would require cats to adhere to all the same sets of rules and regulations as dogs, such as losing their right to remain free roaming. Therefore, should a cat escape and get hit by a car owners would be notified, probably in the form a fine. There should be a separate law for cats taking their unique circumstances into account.
- Why do you think the law treats cats differently from dogs?
When the Road Traffic Act was written, dogs were firmly classed as working animals, which the legislation was designed for. It’s not that being a working animal warranted better welfare protection generally for the animals, it was more a focus on loss on profits to the keeper of such animals. The loss of livestock could be costly to a farmer, and the loss of a well-trained dog could be too, whereas feline mousers in their line of work were seen as ten-a-penny, so I guess this is why they got left behind.
Now, the focus is on keeping drivers safe, with animals’ roaming rights restricted, including dogs. This would be impossible to impose on a cat. Dogs are classed as a hazard to persons, property and vehicles, whereas cats aren’t, so they can still roam. However, that made things difficult in terms of treating cats and dogs exactly the same in law.
Times have now changed, and the titles of ‘worker’ or ‘pet’ is transitioning to ‘sentient companion animal’. I don’t actually believe the current lack of legislation is down to officials lack of care towards cats. I think it’s more that no-one knows what to do with them, or where best to place them within the law. Now people understand they’re sentient companion animals that deserve better, and animal welfare is finally playing a more central role in decisions. Cats being left to suffer roadside is becoming frowned upon, regardless of what status they are given.
- Getting to know the Mandy away from the CatsMatter charity – What else do you enjoy doing with your time?
To be honest, I’m into a bit of everything depending on my mood. Some days I’ll fancy driving out to the country for a walk, or a nice day trip somewhere. Being from Manchester but now living in the Midlands, we drive somewhere random around the UK for a meet-up and day outing with family, which I love. We were due to all meet in Stoke to go to the Monkey Forest for the day, but Covid-19 saw to it that we couldn’t go. I just like getting out and about to new places, so I look forward to our random trips. On other days I might fancy doing a bit of craft work or painting and other days I just want to slob in front of YouTube and watch weird abandoned places on ‘Exploring With Josh’ or daft prank things on ‘The Bell Life’.
- What do your friends and family think of your drive and determination with CatsMatter.
They are all very supportive. I come from a big animal loving family, and all my friends are just as animal mad, so they all tell me constantly how proud they are of the girls and me. I remember me and Carlie took part in back-to-back radio shows throughout the day at the BBC studios in Manchester, as well as appearing on the breakfast show and friends/family were all up at the crack of dawn to watch and listen to us. My mum still rushes out to buy papers or magazines we’re in. I’m really lucky to have the set of friends and family I have. They are all great and have always spurred me on.
- Tell us about any cats you have now?
I currently have 3 cats, Coco, Lucky and Tilly who are my babies. It’s true what they say about cats having staff and our entire lives revolve around them! After losing Snowy to the road, I did what so many others do and swore I’d never get another cat, as I just couldn’t cope with the loss again. I think it’s natural to say that following a tragedy, but there’s so many out there needing a loving home and the best way to honour a lost cat is to open your heart and home to another soul in need – I believe that!
Coco was actually the first kitten I’ve ever owned. She was rescued from a hoarding situation and I totally had first born ‘new mum’ syndrome with her! All my animals get spoilt, especially the cats, but I did go a little crazy on Coco being a kitten.
Lucky was initially rescued by an elderly lady who found her straying with her kittens. She took her in but was then diagnosed with terminal cancer, which led her to relocate across the UK to her daughters, who happen to live on my street. However, the daughter and her family hated cats so as soon as her mother passed away, they pretty much chucked her out. I took her in instead.
My youngest baby, Tilly, also has a sad story. I couldn’t sleep one night for some reason, and I spotted something messing in our recycling boxes outside around 3am. It was Tilly and she was eating a paper plate! I went out and fed her, clearly seeing she was hungry, and she went through 8 sachets of food without breathing! I noticed she was pregnant as well. The next day I caught her and took her to the vet, I didn’t hold out much hope of them finding a microchip. She was full of cat flu, worms, fleas and had a severe eye infection. With no chip, I paid to have her treated while I searched online for a potential owner. My Vet discovered she had no teeth on her left side consistent with a kick, which 3 different vets concluded was the most likely cause. They concluded that an accompanying break or fracture to the jaw would potentially be a road traffic accident, or inflammation could signal she’d lost them due to an infection perhaps. Instead, she had cuts consistent with blunt force from being kicked or hit with something. She was producing milk as well, so the kittens were already out there somewhere. Myself and Cats Protection searched everywhere. No one responded to flyers in the area and we couldn’t follow her because she’d go down a gap in a fence and we couldn’t reach on the other side due to it being a gated private care home. We were just about to purchase a GPS collar when something amazing happened! I heard crying at the door and when I opened it, Tilly was there with a barely 2-week-old kitten in her mouth, which she handed to me. Then she went off and brought another one. Christmas was definitely fun that year. They were eventually adopted through Cats Protection and were thankfully re-homed together, but we kept Tilly. She was going nowhere!
18. How has Covid-19 affected you all in terms of CatsMatter and its message?
To be honest, we decided we had to temporarily amend our message a couple of weeks back, as our usual advice is pretty useless in these unprecedented times. I say that because everything’s flipped on its head. An example of this is: we always advise people to bring their cats in at night as that’s when most incidents occur, yet all the incidents we hear about now are during the day due to irregular traffic and cats being lured in to a false sense of security. Also, the usual channels we advise to take a cat are not operating anywhere near normal at the moment. Our general advice does remain of course, but we are updating certain elements of this to create a blog which will explain what people can do to help keep cats safe in lockdown, as well as what drivers can do if they hit a cat during this time. At the very beginning of lockdown, so many people said to us it should be great for cats and other animals, with less traffic on the roads, yet we did fear it would only make cats roam further and take chances they wouldn’t normally. Unfortunately, our predictions were right, and we are sadly hearing of so many more incidents now.
19. How can the reader support CatsMatter?
There are several ways people can help. Most importantly, familiarise yourself with our advice on how to administer roadside first aid and what to do if a cat runs off, so you are well equipped to potentially save a life if you are involved in, or witness an incident. It’s always a great help if people can share the advice as well, either direct from the website or via our downloads page in the form of flyers. People can donate, or purchase things from our store. The great thing about our popular car stickers is that they help cats twice. Rather than sell things generally to raise money, we thought it would be a great idea if those items could also be used to help raise awareness as well. The car stickers help jog people’s minds looking for cats, much like a ‘think bike’ sticker jogs your memory to check mirrors and keep an eye out for bikes. The proceeds then go towards things such as awareness material which is distributed to vets, either in the form of videos to be played in waiting rooms or posters, and also things such as scanning and storage equipment, so the cats stand the best chance of being reunited with their owners who need that closure and chance to say goodbye properly. We donate these to places like councils and independent groups on occasion, such as local ‘lost and found’ groups in need of equipment for collecting cats locally.
20. What’s on the agenda for you and CatsMatter for the next 12 months?
The big news is compulsory microchipping of cats in England, followed by a best practice guide being issued to councils. We hope to re-open chats with ministers about the road accident legislation as well, but we will have to see how the whole coronavirus issue pans out, as it might delay things, naturally. We spoke to the Environment Secretary, George Eustice, just before lockdown and hope to further things there. He’s been so supportive of our campaign in previous years by helping us to achieve success in London, with people such as Lord Zac Goldsmith, the Minister of State for DEFRA, who has been working with us on scanning, as well as a tightening of Highways England policy, so that both ‘deceased’ cats and dogs that are found are routinely scanned on motorways and major A-roads. We were thrilled when he was appointed the new DEFRA head of course and are really looking forward to what the future holds. We are not just focusing on England either. We did lobby the Scottish government for them to implement the same process as England, and they agreed to review DEFRA’s evidence and research. Northern Ireland are also keen to work with us on a similar project to the one with DEFRA, on the issue of councils scanning deceased or injured cats.
Cats will get there. As one minister recently said to us ‘the day of the cat is coming”
- Cat fencing is a system of cat proofing a garden by means of carefully placed wire, rollers or by other means. Professional companies like Katzecure or Protect A Pet can provide this service.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Anita Kelsey holds a first class honours degree in Feline Behaviour and Psychology (work based BA Hons) and runs a vet referral service dedicated strictly to the diagnosis and treatment of behaviour problems in cats. She is also a qualified cat groomer and specialises in grooming aggressive or phobic cats. Anita writes for Your Cat Magazine and is on their experts panel answering readers questions on cat grooming. She also advises on feline behaviour for the CFBA (Canine and Feline Behaviour) magazine as well as being a full member. Anita, a strong advocate of a vegan lifestyle, is based in London but consults all over the UK as well as international requests. She lives with her husband, a music producer, and two Norwegian Forest cats, Kiki and Zaza. Visit http://www.catbehaviourist.com.
Her debut book ‘Claws. Confessions Of A Professional Cat Groomer‘ is published by John Blakes.