1st Nov 2020 @ 5:42 pm

Lanzarote Vet Jane Burke falls for two little hooligans and praises the selfless people who give their time, effort, passion and hard-earned money to animal charities on Lanzarote.

A very dear friend had a stroke earlier this year. Months later, her children went to prepare her apartment for her return home only to find a stray cat had managed to get in and have five kittens on her bed.

The terrified mummy cat fled and was never seen again. The kittens arrived here shortly afterwards. I was unwilling to hive off the problems of rearing and rehousing more kittens to those who are already overwhelmed so I made them comfortable whilst I thought it over. Always a fatal mistake.

It was, of course, a joy to watch them change from spitting evils to purring baby panthers. I dragged any client I felt might weaken through to admire them, or at least told them of their need for a good home.

Judith from Pals found the first smashing home, then another couple offered to take one and came back for another, leaving just the two black ones. I pestered everyone I knew and leant on friends in cat rescue – all to no avail. Freddie eventually offered to take them, but by then it was too late. They had got their little black claws into my heart and with desperate trepidation I introduced them to my five dogs, none of whom had seen a cat up close.

They loved them from the get-go. Even my podenco, whose hunting heritage was a worry, is gentle and affectionate with them. My lunatic pointer is not gentle, but she chases around with them and they love her and tease her mercilessly.

This strange year has highlighted the people who give their all to help animals on this little island. I will remember lockdown, amongst other things, for the generosity of a woman who enabled me to offer neutering for some 40 young cats at a nominal cost.

I will also remember the Costa Cats Crew, collecting so many more even after being fined for feeding hungry strays (and let’s be honest, for the vegan chocolate Colin and Liz keep treating me to!). Most of all I will remember the generosity of being allowed to spend months watching my beautiful granddaughter develop from a helpless baby into a delightful interactive person, full of fun and affection.

My own life is inevitably hugely involved with the animal charities, as are all veterinary surgeries. With less daily private work recently, I have had time to be more involved, and am fascinated to see our first cat rescue shelter steadily develop from a desolate dilapidated local into an ever more beautiful and self-supporting centre.

It has not happened overnight, and has not been without problems but every veterinary suggestion has been gradually followed. Freddie, our mad cat man, I salute you.

All the cats are vaccinated, as an outbreak in a shelter can so easily and suddenly become a disaster. Isolation areas have been added to prevent infection allow sick cats to be monitored. The control of fleas and intestinal parasites is massively important to safeguard their health.

And, above all, neutering is absolutely fundamental. Any cat or kitten fed and not neutered before breeding is only prolonging the problem that necessitates rescue centres! Rehousing unneutered animals is naive at best and criminally incompetent in the least.

Cats are best neutered at 8-12 weeks of age. I am always amazed at how these little souls awake after an hour or two of surgery, cheeky and hungry, immediately back to boisterous squabbling. There is also indisputable evidence that, surgically, this is the safest and simplest age, with fewer long-term complications. Please put welfare first and get them neutered early!

There are too many hard-working dedicated animal welfare groups for me to mention them all, but I would like to say a personal “Thank you” for the heroes working in Sara – our amazing dog and cat shelter that has never rehoused unneutered animals and has managed, against all odds, to look after all the animals despite lockdown and the closure of their markets.

Sara do have an amazing, recently-decorated charity shed where donations of quality are welcome, and amazing bargains can be found, with every penny going to help the animals. (Open every Tues/Fri 10-12).

At each and every one of these registered animal charities there is a small nucleus of dedicated people that do most of the work, year after year. Like doctors and nurses everywhere, they are overworked and pitifully undervalued.

Most of those folks I see regularly give a great deal to the island, in expertise and in hard cash! But equally, I regularly encounter posts and verbal complaints from the many others who do nothing and give nothing. They assail me with stories, lies and complaints, usually focused on those who are genuinely dedicated.

If I had a Euro for every lie I have had to listen to about one charity or another I could fund them all out of my own pocket! But this is part of the reality of island life – too many with too little to do, and a few dedicated troublemakers whose energies are spent on personal vendettas.

They are easy to spot. Listen to them for an hour and see how many times they mention animal welfare in any shape or form! I can think of one right now who has never yet done or said anything about helping an animal, yet who is surprisingly successful in alienating people from their valuable assistance in animal welfare.

Real animal lovers have no time for this drama and spite. They are too busy looking after the welfare of those who cannot look after themselves. And if they are loud, short tempered, demanding, just remember that they are called all night and all day to do a dirty and even dangerous job, with very little thanks.

In the real world we have to live in you can still help. Think about it – if every single person reading this; every single person whose heart was ever touched by a stray kitten or abandoned puppy; everyone who has sighed at the plight of a sad, stray creature on the street; every one of you who ever felt a pang of concern – if you all just pledged one single euro – the cost of a coffee- a month, so many animals could be helped. Freddie and I once worked out how much his dreamland for cats would benefit if each person who clicked on his website gave just one euro a month and what a different world it could be!

My black lockdown kittens, Sly and Misty, are now fully fledged adolescent vandals and have been hard at work scratching my computer seat into shreds as I type. I hope all you who have adopted your furry family from an animal charity get the same blessed pleasure that these purring hooligans give me.

And I hope everyone who has read this article signs up to give one euro a month to one animal charity ( at least!). Go on, give your furry family sparkling clean bowls of water and pour a glass for yourself to toast the joy of sharing this island with our pets and the work done to save those with no home.