It’s been a year and a half since we last visited Susan Wink Sampere and Julie Watson from Save Gibraltar Street Cats (SGSC), but this time they are in a new home. Since the Gibraltar Cat Welfare society officially retired, SGSC have taken over the reins at the Cat Sanctuary and the two cat devotees were initially excited at the prospect of having new facilities to look after the homeless cats.
“Unfortunately, it was only when we took over that we found that apart from one small room at the back of the building, the rest belongs to a landlord who would like to redevelop the site within the next couple of years,” Susan explains, adding that the landlord has been very nice and has confirmed that he won’t just kick them out.
The Cat Sanctuary is in a hidden location so that people can’t resort to dumping their cats or kittens on the doorstep. “One of the first things we want to do is put CCTV cameras up – regardless of whether we are going to be here for a month or two years,” Julie says.
Both Julie and Susan came in full of ideas and changes to benefit the cats. “The building needs remodelling and refurbishing and we desperately need to make it adequate for the winter months.” They show me two areas without windows, one of which becomes pitch black in winter. “We asked an architect to come up with a design which we had planned to show the Government, but the fact that we may be out of here in the near future has left us in limbo.”
Something that is urgently needed are better facilities for the volunteers who give their free time to help out at the Cat Sanctuary. Julie says that at the moment they have twenty-six morning volunteers who help to clean the Sanctuary, often having to work in very hot conditions and with no toilet facilities. Julie and Susan say that what they need are volunteers to come along for an afternoon shift to socialise with the cats.
“We have brought in chairs and a fridge, so we have started making some changes, and you can come here, have a cup of coffee or a cold drink, wander around, touch a cat and play with them,” Susan says. Some of these cats have been up at the Sanctuary since they were kittens, that’s sixteen years ago.”
Of the twenty-three cats at the Sanctuary at the moment, twenty-one were inherited and have not been socialised, so it would be very difficult to rehome them. “It would need to be with someone that really understands cats and realises that they are not going to be lap cats,” Julie comments.
Two of the cats, Smokey and Pancake, have the Feline Leukaemia Virus (FelV). Susan says that there is no quality of life for these cats and they have to be kept apart from the other cats, spending their days in cages in a separate area. “We have monitored 38°C at 6.30 in the evening and those two cats can’t move from there, they just sit by the window trying to get a breeze.”
The principal aim of SGSC when it was founded was trapping and neutering the cats and the setting up of feeding stations in locations around Gibraltar. “Lottoland kindly donated some money towards this for which we are very grateful,” the dedicated cat lovers tell me. “There was a time when people didn’t like the feeding stations and food was left on the floor, but that is gradually changing,” Susan comments.
Fundraising is always difficult, and despite having good intentions and working hard, it doesn’t necessarily mean that SGSC can meet their fundraising goals. “We want people to know about the Cat Sanctuary and the work we do here,” Susan states. “We are not getting enough money coming in to cover our expenses, for example we have just paid three months of vet bills which was nearly £6,000.”
Julie tells me that they rely solely on donations and standing orders, and now that they have taken on twenty-one extra cats they need to start from scratch. “They all need to be taken to the vets because some are in quite poor condition, and those bills average up to a few hundred pounds for every single cat.”
Importantly Susan and Julie want people to know that the SGSC Private Facebook Group is closing. “Please click on the link & like our new page before our current page is closed. As we’re now the only cat charity in Gib we need your support more than ever!”
If you would like to support SGSC, a regular standing order or direct debit would give the charity the peace of mind to know that they can continue to look after Gibraltar’s street cats. If you feel that you can help make a difference, please get in touch with SGSC via their Facebook page @SaveGibStreetCats