New pens have doubled capacity for the islands’ home-grown cat rescue organisation, as WISCK moves towards the end of its second year in operation.
And despite operating on a shoestring, a combination of generous supporters and extremely kind local businesses meant that new lodgers could be moved into the latest two new pens in September.
Western Isles Support for Cats and Kittens was established early in 2020 in response to the growing need for control of the feral cat population, especially in Lewis and Harris – and after the national cat rescue charity pulled their support out of the islands.
In 2021 there has been a huge rise in activity for the voluntary group. Statistics so far for 2021 show that 126 cats have been brought into care, 45 of them neutered (including 30 females), 74 cats and kittens rehomed and 40 neutered cats returned to their home colony.
In September alone, trapping was carried out in Drinishader, Tarbert, South Shawbost, Shader Barvas, Garynahine, Aird and Garrabost in Point.
Currently in care are 42 cats, 29 of which are with volunteer foster-carers and 13, including seven kittens, in specially-constructed pens.
It’s these pens which have become indispensable since the rise in successful trapping work. Ageing accommodation at the three-pen ‘cat central’ in Sandwick simply couldn’t house the number of cats needing safe shelter before neutering, so two new pens have now been built at the homes of committee members.
They were built and installed by Splinters Workshop and easy-to-clean linoleum flooring was installed by Andy 'Gress' Macleod. Wiring for heat and light was kindly put in by local contractor Chris Thain, aka The Wire Guy, who offered an exceptionally generous rate to support the group and got lights and safe-touch heaters installed just in time for dark nights and falling temperatures.
Together with one extra pen at the home of a committee member, that means WISCK will go into their second winter with double the accommodation as well as a constantly-growing team of volunteers.
The multi-talented committee of eight co-ordinates a huge army of volunteer fundraisers, pen-cleaners, trapping assistants and cat-cuddlers, while the home-based foster carer team has also expanded, 28 individuals now taking rescued kittens into their homes to socialise them ready for a new life.
WISCK’s chair Cat Campbell said: “We are exceptionally lucky with the support we have attracted from volunteers, generous donors and local contractors who have helped out. Without all of these people, it’s hard to imagine how we would have got through such a huge amount of work.
“Double the work does mean double the costs, in food, veterinary care, hygiene supplies and even for small items like toys for the numerous kittens.
“We hope that people will keep on being as generous as they have over the past 12 months, but at least now we also have twice the number of pens, a much bigger team of helpers and a fair crack at the fundraising we desperately need to keep doing our work.”
- WISCK exists to help improve the quality of life of cats, while reducing the population of feral cats in the islands by trapping, neutering and returning adult ferals to their colonies. Kittens are kept in foster care until they are social and then matched with new owners through social media. The group also shares information on missing cats to help reunite loved pets with their owners.