Association Gatos de Manilva Explained.
What motivated our charity Association Gatos de Manilva, to be created within our Municipality of Manilva?
There are some days we ask ourselves that same question!
Association Gatos de Manilva set out to fill a huge hole within the community to help care and support the street cats. It has grown organically since its inception a matter of months ago, to be now well recognised as a valued partner and a key ingredient to support this local area. The journey has been tough, with lots of twists and turns, with many of us frequently pushing water uphill concerning the evolution of “controlled cat colonies”. However thanks to the huge amount of cat lovers who have contributed to these activities, we have happily achieved vast amounts, with enormous and very fruitful results for our local street cats.
What do we do to help the local community?
Part of the commitment made within the Environment Agency back in 2018 within the City Council (locally known as Medio Ambiente, Manilva), appreciated there was a need to create a local group. So in order to safeguard and protect this group of cats, this legal entity was formed with the support and guidance from the then, Foreign Resident Councillor responsible for this aspect. So with his drive, he actively helped the team to realise the only cat charity registered in Manilva. However, in order to help tackle this historical issue which had not been addressed properly during previous times and with a potentially epidemic explosion of breeding street cats, there was only one way up! Find some “mad catters”, and he did, with his local contacts, he rounded up numerous interested parties whom had been involved with street cats previously along the way whilst adding to the numbers from several new people. It took much hard work and dedication from a few devoted people to formulate this project officially and legally! Fortunately, the mayor Mario Jimenez Rodriguez has totally backed this work initiative, has been fully supportive, been involved and has completely endorsed this project, offering assistance when it’s been necessary.
Oh yes we certainly do! This method of operating is not only internationally recognised, it has proved time over for us to be a very effective and a very safe way of dealing with the cats we support. Our first task was to raise essential funds to set ourselves up officially paying for all the legal documentation necessary in order to be implemented. It was then important to market ourselves and to buy the vital equipment which included special auto humane traps, (we managed to raise enough to buy 6 traps; that fundraising walk we did in the spring was epic, and we still smile fondly even now!). We then chose to invest in eight pink carrier transfer cages. We chose bright pink ones as part of our core branding much to the amusement of all the local vets we collaborate with. The vets assistants love them because they are able to find our cats post op, being very distinguishable from other carriers when we come back to collect our cats ready for release! All our volunteers are trained on the usage, our tricks of the trade and ways of quickly catching these strays. Our normal practice is to catch in the morning and return to their exact environment by the end of that same day. We currently have 11 operational feeding stations with more to erect soon.
What are the charity team dynamics?
Association Gatos de Manilva has a leadership team formed of the President, Vice President, Treasurer and Secretary. Each person takes responsibility for a dedicated section of the charity within their responsibilities. We have created clear foundations which incorporate an organisational chart made up of different functionalities and teams. Each allocated team takes a segment which has been identified: working alongside the availability of these incredible volunteers is critical, so as to help us undertake the many varied and different tasks necessary to be effective and of value.
What are the typical tasks of a volunteer within the feeding team/neuter team?
Our valuable Whats App main group allows us all to keep in regular touch, hourly, daily or weekly. For some it’s more than others, but the key point here is we are ALL volunteers giving up very precious time to do what we love doing and that’s caring for cats in the hope we can make a collective difference. So from our alternate day feeding program that has been successfully developed, cat catching, through to fundraising activities, we need many roles carried out and the feeding stations have to be manned in a satisfactory way. Now, if we have an urgent call concerning a stray cat in to our inbox or through our very active Facebook page (our main method of communication) which needs to be handled, we are on it very promptly. Often a call will need us to investigate whether we need to neuter a cat due to their erratic behavior, (being bad is a reputation they have gained sadly….), or even a mum that has had babies recently and has been found in an unsafe location, we need to retrieve them from danger, normally with not much notice either. When a request for help comes in, these tasks are cascaded through the mini team groups; the volunteers work closely together so the cat is safely handled with a solution found swiftly.
How does Association Gatos de Manilva raise awareness to protect the street cats?
That has been a real eye opener as the elected President remarks. I was frequently told, and you’ll hear people say “I am just a dog lover or I am a just cat lover”, but honestly most of our findings so far have been to the contrary. Thankfully both animals live well together, so many of our observations and feedback has proved its about good people being ANIMAL lovers that counts for us! Yes, it’s true the stray cat can be a territorial nightmare, however we have been able to demonstrate through our work that clearly the creation of the protected colonies in non residential areas has proved very effective. Education is a huge challenge again for us, but little by little, we tackle it head on with regular monthly stalls held to talk through our work we do and to chat about and how we are impacting positively. It’s so heartwarming when the very old lady puts her euros in our donation tins or the little boy brings his pocket money to us because he wants to help the cats…
Our branding and signage have taken very positive steps forward to help identify us. We have tried to eradicate the myth that cats are bad and should not be bothered with; that we need them to play their part within the food-chain and through our alternate day feeding, this is reaching out to local people and we know for sure something good is being accomplished! The style of our logo, established by an amazing graphic designer Nadja who donated her valuable time to work with us for free, and of course being a cat lover herself, she presented her design to the team noting the striking PINK bow which was chosen as a sign to help internationally.
Let’s talk about the nice side and bad side of what we do at Association Gatos de Manilva.
The nice side is we actively save cats lives, improving their well being when we neuter them allowing them to live more peacefully and calmly. We stop the mums being a breeding machine every 4+ months. We prevent the males leaving that very pungent smell pre-neuter time, when they mark their territory! Honestly, they don’t smell great. I’ve mostly stopped talking about the bad side because we are forced to deal with a small minority of narrow minded individuals periodically. Let’s take one recently, he’s been a President representing his community within his urbanisation for many years. He hates cats, refused to meet us, refused to take preventative measures to help control the cats and ended up with an overrun location of cats. He demanded to the local council (bearing in mind it’s part of his overall responsibility to deal with this subject matter along with their Administrator, I can’t imagine many would want to live near him with these morals and values), that he wants them ALL KILLED and removed…
I’m not embarrassed to say I was very angry when I was presented with these issues to address, as were the whole team. One very disappointed and distressed volunteer had to even witness this behaviour first hand, so in support, an extra ordinary project was undertaken and achieved within record time to rescue these cats and re position them.
What is the point of controlling colonies?
Here’s the evidence if we do nothing within our community…..
Do we have any tricks to beat missing that clever cat when catching?
Oh yes we sure do.. They mainly come out to feed at night. So when we are working on a planned project, our equipment can be seen easily; our feeding stations really add value to help us capture humanely. Having implemented a clear pattern to their feeding times in conjunction with the volunteers schedules, we find by not feeding them 24 hours prior to neutering, they are hungry and keen to enter our traps. Once caught, we then transfer them to the pink carriers on to the vets. We have seen my minimizing the food intake prior to castration much success post operative in their recovery period because they have not eaten for a bit, they settle back swiftly in to their daily routine. To date, with close to 200 neutered cats under our belt, we are cementing our place and reaching our goals we set out within this municipality. I am very proud to say along with the amazing level of care taken by our appointed local vets, and obviously with the incredible support by the brilliant team we have in place, there has not been ONE incident post op to contend with.
Which partners do we collaborate with?
When Castles Estate Agency, a family run business since 1986 were approached to invest vital funds and whether they would be interested to become a sponsor, they very positively responded with great enthusiasm to entwine with this local initiative. Their commitment to help their clients seeking their RIGHT home had synergy with this project and our desire to help the cats. Helping people locally for them has been what they had formed their formidable reputation on, so they jumped at the opportunity. We are very proud to be associated with them and look forward together to our respective growth and success.
How can you make a difference?
You may be a cat lover and want to help remotely, so feel free if you want to donate online (paypal.me/gatosdemanilva) Subscrption Annually is just €25.00
Or you might be moving to the local area, and wish to compliment your permanent move over here with an animal, so if you are a cat lover, could you help to adoption a kitten or cat otherwise you may just wish to foster, do contact us as below!
It’s great fun to get involved locally, it is lovely team of international members who all want to play their small part and make a difference to undertake voluntary work.
Please do email us on [email protected]
Thank you for investing time to read about us and our work, if you wish to contact us for any other information or like us of facebook/gatosdemanilva, we welcome you to do so.
Next installment : Our website going live, so watch this space
Finally you may just want to receive one of our many fact sheets about cats we are developing?
The Gatos de Manilva Leadership Team