Ten thousand cats have been successfully homed during the Covid-19 crisis, thanks to an innovative door-step delivery solution specifically tailored to overcome lockdown restrictions.
Cats Protection is celebrating the commitment of its care teams and volunteers who delivered in trying times to make such a landmark success of its new Hands-Free Homing process.
When the UK went into lockdown in March, it became clear that the nation’s largest cat welfare charity would need to engineer new ways of working. Its centres were closed to the public but care continued and there was a need to rehome cats as speedily as possible to reduce their time in care.
The solution was simple; Hands-Free Homing matches prospective owners with cats in need using interactive video technology and safely delivers them to their new homes without need for human contact. As lockdown restrictions eased a Covid-safe collection service was also introduced following the online matching process.
After a successful trial, volunteers and staff were trained in Covid-safe protocols and the scheme was deployed across the network, forming a cornerstone of the charity’s commitment to remain #HereForTheCats.
Mike Elliott, Cats Protection’s Director of Field Operations, said: “Everything changed overnight. Lockdown forced us to rethink how best to support the welfare of cats in need. We had to find new ways of working and fast. Hands-Free Homing has allowed us to find homes for more than ten thousand cats; that’s an achievement worth celebrating.
“This milestone is testament to the teamwork, commitment and dedication of our volunteers, staff and fundraisers who pulled together for the sake of the cats and delivered when we needed them most. We couldn’t be more proud of everyone who represents Cats Protection and helped us remain here for the cats.”
By November, the number of cats homed since lockdown began clocked in at 10,859. The method has been such a success for cats and their new owners that it has become standard practice as the charity continues to care for cats during the pandemic and beyond.
Collaboration has been key to this success. Volunteers and fosterers from across the charity’s national network have supported staff at homing and adoption centres to match cats to new homes and find ways to deliver costly care and treatment for a number of emergency cases.
Former street cat Maggie had three tiny kittens when she came in for specialist care at Cats Protection’s newest homing centre in Harrow. The kittens were transferred to the Richmond branch for homing but Maggie knew only outdoor life and longed for the freedom that gave her, which suited Lesley Beckwith just fine.
Lesley has a yard in Northwood, Surrey, with a stable and outbuildings. She said: “We already have three rescue cats and were thinking about getting another when my son Daniel heard about Maggie on the Harrow website. Hands-Free Homing sounded wonderful and it’s so simple. They explained everything to us and then rang to check on how things were going.
“Maggie has really made herself at home in the yard. She likes to keep a distance, but that doesn’t stop her coming to ask for her breakfast and dinner. She has us running around after her, so I’d say she’s settled in really well.”
Six-week-old Hans was the lone surviving kitten when he arrived at the Harrow Homing Centre from a feral colony. The cute tabby was understandably nervous and a bit hissy, but he was a plucky survivor and, after responding well to hands-on care, he was snapped up by his new family, Sandra and Anthony Fludgate, of Datchet, Berkshire.
Sandra said: “Staff at the centre were very helpful and the process was all so smooth. We felt totally safe in their care, which was important to us as my husband is disabled and vulnerable and was shielding. He loves cats and, as we’ve discovered, kittens definitely keep you young.
“Hans is a typical kitten and has shown himself to be lively and inquisitive. We’re trying to acclimatise him to our other cat Mimi. She’s 12 and a bit wary at the moment so they’ve only met through a glass door. But the signs are good and he’s good company for my husband.”
Claire and Paul McGinley were among the first to experience Hands-Free Homing from the Gildersome Homing Centre. On return to North Yorkshire after a year travelling they decided to give an older cat a second chance after their beloved Napoleon died in 2017, aged 18.
Claire said: “It was hard choosing from the worthy cases on the website. There were a few tears shed by me when we had to choose one because I am so soft and felt sorry for the others we couldn’t have. But we settled on a lovely black and white gentleman called Jess. His owner had died a couple of months before and he had been brought to Cats Protection.
“The write-up said he would prefer a quiet home with no children or other pets, so that was perfect for us. He has brought joy and laughter into our lives and once again our house is a home. We renamed him Shane because he has lost quite a few teeth and my husband’s favourite singer is Shane MacGowan from The Pogues. We love having Shane in our lives and feel sure we will have many happy years together as he enjoys his retirement with us.”
Intensive new processes and lifesaving care do not come cheap, which became a particular pain point during lockdown as fundraising has been a significant casualty of the pandemic. Cats Protection is able to continue its work within government guidelines, thanks to the financial generosity of its supporters.
Cats Protection’s Regional Fundraising Manager Hannah Ashwell, said: “We took a big hit when most organised fundraising events and sponsored activities were cancelled. But our work goes on and the need doesn’t go away. Thankfully, our supporters have been life savers, coming up with creative ways to raise money through sponsored walks, climbs on their stairs and sleepovers. With new restrictions upon us, we are empowered by the invaluable support of cat lovers who show willing to dig deep, even when cash is short.”
To donate to the ongoing work of Cats Protection and ensure that thousands more cats can be homed and treated, please visit: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/cats-protection-north-londonappeal