It's been pretty quiet on the Vegan Oslo front this week and that is because I visited Kattensvern in Bergen and adopted three lovely little cats! Weee! They have needed a lot of special care and attention so I took some time off my Vegan Oslo work to give them lots of love.
It is estimated that there are over 50,000 homeless cats in Norway now and that number is increasing year after year. It is important that we try and tackle this issue, especially when we consider the cold Norwegian winters, no cats can survive without our help.
I first heard about Kattensvern at Dyreverndagen a few months ago. I heard a great talk by Jeanette Laxdal, one of the main people involved with the organisation. Kattensvern is an organisation based near Bergen that take in cats that have been abandoned, abused or made homeless, and help to find homes for them. In addition to directly caring for such cats, they fight to establish an animal police in Bergen and spread knowledge about how to look after cats conscientiously.
Since Kattensvern started in 2004 they have rehomed more than 3000 cats in Bergen and have worked to improve cats welfare and change common attitudes towards caring for pets for the better. As well as their rescue center they also have a shop in the city centre and conduct awareness-raising activities. There are excellent people that volunteer their time to take care of the cats and run the shop.
In Norway people often have an old fashioned concept of what animals needs are, and think that is natural to not neuter the cat and let it live in the barn and hunt for its dinner. But the reality is that modern felines are just not equipped for that type of lifestyle and all cats in Norway need human help to survive, whether they're domestic cats, or so-called "wild cats".
The mission of Kattensvern is to find homes for homeless cats, work to sterilise/castrate cats (helping combat homeless kitties being brought into the world), to make sure that cats get proper medical care and vaccinations, to care for the cats that are currently homeless, to spread attitude enhancing information in the media, and to cooperate with animal welfare associations in Norway and abroad.
Meet Nina, Miles and Misty
I sent Kattensvern an email about myself. As 1/3 of the Vegan Oslo team, I had recently moved to Bergen (Vegan Bergen on its way maybe...) and I had made sure that I had moved into a place that would have enough space so that I would be able to take care of some homeless animals. They liked the sound of this and told me to come by and say hello. I went there after work that day. Their center is just outside of the city center, in a very leafy suburb. As soon as i walked in I was greeted with several cosy cats of all different shapes and sizes. One ran towards me straight away, a lovely black cat whom the lady at the front desk called 'Svartpuss'.
'He is very cosy, he just came to us recently.' she said as he nuzzled his way into my neck purring and dribbling with happiness. I had never met a cat that was so keen on cuddling with me before. She went on to tell me that if I was to adopt him it would have to be with his sister, 'Gråpuss'. Gråpuss came wandering around the corner then and rubbed herself against my leg. I was only considering adopting one cat, could I adopt two? 'You know what, maybe it is best that I take two cats, I mean I was thinking of taking only one, but its so much better that they have each other, and they have someone to play with in the day. Yeah, I will take them both!' It was an easy decision for me to make, once it was presented to me.
'...Well theres more to the story really.' said the lady. She began to tell me that these cats had come from the home of a very old lady who had died from cancer. The cats were everything to her and she was everything to them. The old lady didnt have much family and the cats were her little family, but as the cancer took a hold of her, she couldn't really look after them properly anymore. When she died and the cats were taken to Kattensvern, they were very thin. I looked at these fluffy, friendly cats, and noticed how skinny they really were.
The lady went onto say that many years ago, the old lady had rescued a cat called Misty from a very violent owner. This owner had treated Misty abysmally and when the old lady took her in, she was a very terrified and jumpy little cat. However, the old lady gave Misty what she needed, some space, some love, nice food and someone she could trust. After a few years, Misty began to recover from her abuse, and a few years after that the old lady decided that she would adopt some rescue kittens (Svartpuss and Gråpuss) to help Misty come out of her shell a little more.
This seemed to be the best idea, the kittens were very needy and Misty instantly adopted a mothering role, taking care of them and looking after them. The three cats have been together ever since, and now ended up at Kattensvern.
'So you see, you will actually need to adopt three cats. Misty is 15 years old now. This is a big commitment. Do you want to do it?'
'Without a shadow of a doubt, yes!' I said. I began to cry a little. As a survivor of domestic abuse myself, the story of Misty and her recovery really tugged on my heart strings. I know that not many people will go to Kattensvern and adopt three cats and not many people would want to take a shy old cat like Misty. I could not bear the thought of this little family being torn up. I had to take them all.
I came back the next day after the adoption papers, information about each cat and medicines or vet visits they needed had been organised. It costs around 1400 to adopt a cat from Kattensvern, but that includes sterilisation, microchipping and initial vaccinations. They gave me a great discount for adopting all three! I also got an information pack on each cat which told me a bit about their history and personalities, and a goody bag filled with toys, cat nip and some collars for when they become outdoor cats. I also bought some essentials such as kitty litter and some food. We managed to get all the cats into some cat boxes and one of the ladies at Kattensvern gave me lift home with them.
That night they were all very curious, wandering around my apartment, sniffing all the corners and generally wondering what the hell was going on. Misty hid in the corner but did come out for a little bit of dinner.
Now almost a week later, they already feel totally at home, even Misty has tentatively walked over for a little pat on the head. Wherever I go, they go and if i sit on the sofa, they all curl up around me. It feels so good to be able to give them a home and give them my love.
How can I help?
There are many things that you can do to help the pet homelessness crisis.
Adopt, don't shop.
If you have very specific needs which mean that adopting a homeless pet is not for you, then simply don't have a pet at all. Animals are not toys or luxury objects that we should breed to have a certain look. They're not something that we should trade. Whilst there are so many animals in shelters and on the streets, have some compassion and adopt one of them instead of buying from a breeder.
Stand up for animals
Without even having a pet you can help by donating to organisations like Kattensvern. There are many organisations in Norway that work to help reduce homelessness amongst cats and dogs. Check out Dyrevern Alliansen, Minding Animals Norge and NOAH -for dyrs rettigheter.
Don't be part of the problem
It may sound simple, but the greatest gift you can give homeless pets and those who take care of them is simply to keep your own pets for life.
Be a foster home
You could be a pit stop for a kitty before they begin their life elsewhere.
If you sterilise your pet you are protecting them against bring more animals into the world that we have to struggle to find homes for. You should also promote this and tell your friends and family who have pets to sterilise theirs.
Don't just walk by
Do you have concerns for how people in your neighbourhood treat their pets, or have you found some animals in need? Depending on the seriousness of the situation you can call the police or just one of the animal rights organisations for advice.
Get them checked up
Pets need regular vet visits just like we need the docs to check us every year even if we seem ok. It's very important that they get all of their vaccinations.
I often say this at Vegan Oslo, but use your own skills to raise awareness of animal rights and do what you can in your field of work too.
It's the simplest but best advice I could ever give.