The Cats Protection Freedom Project; Fostering Pets and Helping Victims of Domestic Abuse
By Ruth Lawrence; Page 50 in Sussex Living October 2014
Many people (the overwhelming majority of people seeking refuge are women) have limited options when it comes to escaping violence at home, particularly if their pet is being used as a tool of emotional blackmail. This is where specialised help is desperately needed to intervene.
The Cats Protection Freedom Project is a life changing service; in partnership with the Greater London based Dogs Trust Freedom Project, victims of abuse can now obtain a safe temporary home for their cat via Cats Protection. The way it works is simple; the person is offered a place in a refuge until they can be given their own home and their cat is fostered to a loving, private home until they can be reunited, typically in five to nine months time.
The project is actively searching for foster carers for cats in Sussex; I spoke to Freedom Project Manager, Beverley Mitchell to find out how people can help while enjoying the company of a grateful cat so that its owner can build a new and happier life. “We need foster carers with no pets of their own,” Beverley told me. “A garden is not a requirement; many fosterers live in flats,” she added. A fosterer receives visits and support from Cats Protection and all costs are met including transport, cat beds, litter, food, bowls, health care and insurance. Cats are microchipped, vaccinated and neutered if necessary and as volunteers have no pets of their own, the cat has every chance to settle into its new home with as little stress as possible.
To preserve anonymity owner and fosterer never meet, but photos and updates of the cat’s wellbeing can be passed on via the charity until the day when they are reunited. One lady’s comments spoke volumes about her gratitude to her unknown helper; “Without people like you and projects like this, I would never have been able to move forward.”
Her cat was given a loving home for six months and she added “my son and I are in a good place….without you that simply wouldn’t have been possible.”
Fostering can be of life saving benefit to the cat and its owner while offering pet partnership without the long term commitment or costs normally involved. Elderly people who would love a feline companion but who cannot afford the cost or worry about its future could find fostering a wonderful way to have their own, temporary pet. Because there are more cats than foster carers, there will always be a cat available when the present cat is returned so fosterers could have the company of many cats over a long period of time if they desired.
The rewards of helping someone in distress should not be underestimated; the lady mentioned above said,
“thank you to the nicest lady with the biggest heart, who looked after my cat. I’ve never had a chance to meet her but I’m eternally grateful.”
A fosterer from North London told of how it is “incredibly rewarding to feel I’m playing a part in… a really special project. I’m really, really glad I got involved.”
Most cases on the project are referred through social workers, police or refuge centres and since the project was begun in 2004, two hundred families and 350 cats have been helped to find better lives in a safe environment.
At present there are 19 cats waiting for foster carers in Sussex; this is a chance to make a huge difference in someone’s life while having a loving feline companion to nurture.
If you think you could potentially foster a cat, your care could provide immediate relief for not only the animal but for its owner as well. Someone fleeing domestic abuse is desperate and for them to know that their cherished cat is safe and cared for is life changing, putting them on the road to recovery and a brighter, hopeful new future.
The Cats Protection Freedom Project
To find out how to foster, call 01825 741973, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.cats.org.uk