Riga and cats have a long history, going back to 1909 when the Cat House was built in the old city. It is a symbol of Riga’s love of cats and features two angry cats with arched backs on its turrets. These symbolise the feud between its owner and the Tradesmen’s Guild who refused him membership. Most Rigans own a cat, but thousands more are living rough, and multiplying fast. Now two young IT entrepreneurs are trying to solve the problem with care and kindness. They founded the charity Cat Care Community in 2015, and it became a registered charity the same year. Anastasia Yahova, 27, and Andrey Podshibyanin, 29, talked to The Baltic Times about their charity and their ideas.
It is a unique way you have of trying to solve the cat overcrowding problem?
Yes, we thought that providing shelters for the homeless cats, and sterilising as many as possible was the best way to help the cats and keep the population down.
How does this work?
We provide small shelters, like little dog kennels, in areas where there are many stray homeless cats. Any that look ill-treated or hurt are taken to a vet for treatment.
This must cost money – how do you get the funds?
We started a charity and called it Cat Care Community. We are totally reliant on donations and we have shelters built for us by a volunteer. These are placed in the areas where these strays are living and provide protection for them, and volunteers provide dry cat food regularly. Some cats need a family and so we also find homes for them. The donations come from our members and followers.
Which means Social Media is important to you?
Yes, we have a Facebook site with almost seven thousand members and followers, and over 1,000 on Instagram, plus we also hold regular exhibitions and also displays in shopping malls and large pet stores.
We use these tools to attract new members, donations and appeals for homes for the cats. We have space for only around 25 cats, and so we are always looking for temporary homes as well as permanent homes for them.
Do you check out the prospective new owners, before giving them a cat?
Yes, we try to as far as possible. We ask them to sterilise a kitten, we tell them what food to give them and how often, and give them an idea of the cost of having a cat.
How do you know if a cat has been a home pet or if it is used to living rough?
It is important to know this. Home cats behave differently, they are more friendly and they are not afraid of people. Plus, they are much better with children.
It must be difficult for a cat who has been used to freedom and outdoors, to adjust to suddenly find itself living in an apartment with a family?
Well, a kitten can adjust easily in just one or two days, certainly within two weeks, but for older cats is may take them one or two months. Sometimes, if a cat has been living outside all their life, it would be impossible for them to adjust to life indoors. In that instance we would ensure that it is placed with an owner who has a garden at least.
Is your charity run by volunteers?
Yes completely. We have around 10 volunteers at the moment including the one who makes the shelters, and one who takes the photographs for our Facebook posts and other publicity material. We are always looking for more, and of course they all have to have a love of cats.
What would a donation of, say, 20 euros buy?
10 kilos of dry food. Or a vetinary examination, or a three- day stay in a clinic, or 20 per cent of a cat shelter. 25 Euros, however, would pay for the sterilisation of one cat. There is a programme run by the City Council which offers free sterilisation, and we take advantage of this, but it is very limited.
How much does a cat house cost?
100 euros for a large house and around 50 euros for a small one. They are well built, sturdy, and cats find them comfortable and a shelter from dogs and bad weather.
How does one make a donation to your registered charity?
PayPal: firstname.lastname@example.org or direct to our Bank account:-Cat Care Community. Reg No: 40008240732. A/c no: LV51HABA0551040459254