Snap Happy by Jessica McColl

When I wrote my last post I was feeling deflated. In fact it is very easy to feel deflated when you see the plight of cats in shelters. People who work in such places talk of self-preservation. That you have to close yourself off emotionally, to some extent, so that you don’t spend your life in tears.

Twenty kittens to euthanize today. Sure thing, can’t wait.

I do not emotionally disconnect myself and I never will. Change will only occur if people continue to see the injustices. The volunteers have a sort of motto  - “do the best you can for the animals while they are at the facility”.

So, I spent Saturday making up mushy food for the littlest of our kittens (only available to rescue due to being too young to rehome) and stayed with them to make sure each of the little fluff balls got enough to eat. I always say that when I get another cat, I will only adopt an adult. But kittens are divine.

 *Le sigh*

Whilst preparing the kitten food, I noticed some people photographing the cats. You see, shelter staff don’t have time to take photographs beyond the picture taken when the animal is impounded. Usually this photograph shows a terrified cat huddled in the back of a trap or cat carrier. Now I am no marketing expert, but surely the majority of general public aren’t going to be lining up to visit that cat. These photographers come in and set up a makeshift studio in the cattery and take very polished looking images of the cats, which they then give to the shelter so that they can advertise the cats on the shelter’s webpage. What I discovered through chatting with a few of the photographers was that they do so much more.

They come in looking every bit the professional pet photographer. With a bag of tricks to entice even the flightiest of felines. Think: natural yoghurt, kitten milk, wet food and toys. They bring out white screens and props so that it appears the cats are not in fact in a shelter, but are instead in a fancy studio.

"Never work with kids or animals", photographers Katie & Andrew with some un-cooperative kittens

"Never work with kids or animals", photographers Katie & Andrew with some un-cooperative kittens

Surprisingly though, they all have other jobs, not in photography, but in fields such as law and occupational therapy. They clearly have an interest in photography, which they are able to foster through donating their time to some very needy (and at times, highly un-cooperative) subjects. They also love cats. And as the shirt says, people who don’t like cats are weirdos. So I took a liking to them straight away

But wait folks, there is still more. They belong to a group called the Rescue Cat Project. You can visit them on facebook here. They do something a bit different to the work of the regular rescue groups. They instead aim to give the impounded kitties a voice. They do it in three major ways.

1)     CatOgraphy- the cute name given to these fabulous photos they take to advertise the kitties while they are in the shelter. This aids in more adoptions taking place directly from the facility and taking some of the pressure off the already over-flowing rescue organisations.

2)     CatVocacy – another cute name given to the Rescue Cat Project’s plight to be the physical voice of the cats in the shelter by attending council meetings to question and challenge the bureaucracy and advocate for change. 

They also team up with rescue groups to help get cats and kittens out of the pound and into foster care.

3) CatFunding – raising funds to improve the life of cats in shelters. While they were there, the kind representatives of the project offered me food and specially formulated cat milk to feed the little kittens I was caring for. I am not sure I can write eloquently enough how greatly appreciated this is. Such a small thing really. My cats have cat milk stocked up as treats – half the time they won’t even drink it. For these tiny kittens an extra full belly can be the difference between life and death. Today’s serving of kitten milk may be the highlight of their whole life. Their entire lifespan may consist of five weeks.

So this week, I left feeling somewhat uplifted. When you see others out there fighting the good fight, it motivates you to continue doing the same. After all, we are all in this together.