Soon after moving to the island of Vis, in Croatia, designer / illustrator Little Shiva noticed a problem: there was no vet on the island, and unwanted cats and kittens were regularly dumped and poisoned.
Animal welfare awareness and infrastructure are underdeveloped in the region, and caring for street cats is still a bit taboo. Aside from the fact that the women who do this work are afraid of being labelled “Crazy Cat Ladies”, many locals get angry about street cats being fed (“They won’t hunt mice or rats if you feed them!”) or sterilized (“It’s not natural”). A mini-war even broke out in the media over an attempt to get a well-known Tom castrated: in such a patriarchal culture, balls are sacred, apparently.
Not finding any local group to join, Little Shiva started a project in June of 2018 called “Street Cats of Vis” in order to try and build community and get cats spayed and neutered. She was joined in August 2019 by Francesca Walker, who lives on Vis now and still works remotely for the SPCA NZ. Before moving to Vis, Francesca worked for them as an animal welfare inspector and volunteered for their National Rescue Unit, which specializes in technical animal rescue (dogs off cliffs, large animals, animals trapped in dangerous confined spaces).
Francesca works on the front lines, handling most interaction with the public (live and on social media), working with local volunteers, responding to emergencies, catching cats to be taken to Split for sterilizing (which the town of Vis pays for), and also oversees the Kaha Kittens and Safe House Network projects (neonatal care and fostering, respectively).
Little Shiva does behind-the-scenes admin work, managing the website she built for the project, designing and illustrating digital as well as printed marketing materials, and also feeds and monitors three colonies (Cats of Wellington is one).
Sadly, dumping and poisoning still happen, and as of this writing, there’s still no vet on the island, although one has been promised in the semi-near future. The good news is that the street cat population is beginning to stabilize thanks to TNR! While the town of Vis pays for sterilizing, it does not cover any other veterinary costs, nor feeding. Work is done on an all-volunteer basis, but Street Cats of Vis depends on donations, which can be made through the website.
Shiva and Francesca