My name is Dan, I am from Exeter in the UK and have spent the previous 8 years working in Local Government. I love all animals, but cats are definitely my favourite – their characters and behaviours always fascinate me, so to work with them is a dream of mine. In 2015, I travelled to South Africa a couple of times to volunteer with rescue and rehabilitation centres. I had the opportunity to work with rhinos, cheetahs, lions, hyenas, vultures and hippos, amongst many others.
These experiences reaffirmed my desire to work with animals, and in 2017, my next volunteering adventure was in Bulgaria with Street Hearts BG. I was immediately struck by how happy and full of the life the dogs were. It gave testament to the hard work Emma and Anthony do and what a difference they were making to the dogs’ lives. I learnt about the effects of the neutering campaign and how much of a positive change had been implemented.
I returned home with the thought that this was something that I’d like to do. I had seen first-hand the difference that Emma and Anthony had made in Dryanovo. I was inspired by their hard work, dedication and the fact that just the two of them had created a successful organisation from scratch. Their plans and actions gave me the belief that I could do the same.
I decided that I better start learning Bulgarian, so in January 2018 I began having weekly lessons. In September that year, I returned to Street Hearts to volunteer and seek advice about starting a campaign. Despite my 4 pages of questions (!), Emma & Anthony very generously offered me the opportunity to work alongside Street Hearts. I jumped at this chance because for them to allow me access to their knowledge, skills and facilities, is priceless. Since then, I’ve been working hard on planning the programme, studying the language and researching as much as I can about cats!
The aim of the programme
The aim is to start a neutering campaign to reduce the stray cat population in and around Dryanovo, Bulgaria. This can be achieved by setting-up a Trap, Neuter, Return (TNR) programme and educating the public in caring for their pets and the cats in the community. My long-term goal is to continue and expand the neutering campaign into other areas of Bulgaria.
The neutering programme will reduce the pregnancy-rate amongst pets and strays, and it will also reduce the number of cats living on the streets. Neutered stray & feral cats will no longer produce unwanted kittens. These kittens would go on to produce kittens themselves, which creates a vicious cycle and results in overpopulation. A neutered pet population will decrease the instances of cats being abandoned due to pregnancy, illnesses and unwanted behaviours associated with unneutered cats.
Education is also important in reducing the number of street cats, therefore the aim is to provide information and assistance to the public to facilitate and encourage the neutering of their pets and community cats. An educated community, who neuter their cats and understand the responsibility that comes with pet ownership, will empower others to follow their example.
I am hoping to raise funds to enable the programme to continue. If you would like to make a donation, there are a few ways in which you can do so:
- I have created a Go Fund Me page (https://www.gofundme.com/cat-neutering-programme-in-bulgaria).
- There is a PayPal account. Please see Paypal buttons below
- There is an Amazon Wishlist available here (link).
Cats are prolific breeders!
- Females can easily give birth 3 times a year, with an average of 4-6 kittens per litter. Therefore, it is possible that one cat can give birth to 18 kittens a year.
- Pregnancy lasts for 9 weeks, with females often coming back into season as early as 6 weeks after giving birth.
- A single female cat, along with the offspring she produces, can be responsible for 12,000 cats in just 5 years.
Cats are often poisoned if there are too many of them. The neutering programme will decrease (and hopefully prevent) instances of poisoning as it will lower the population living on the streets. When stray cats are killed, it creates a void in their territory. Other strays will find and claim this territory as their own. This continues the problem, it doesn’t solve it. TNR means the cat will keep its territory, without producing other cats and increasing the stray population.
When cats with diseases and undesirable genetic traits reproduce, they can pass on these health problems to their offspring. Neutering can help reduce the numbers of cats being born with health conditions which are inherited from their parents.
Neutering offers many benefits, both to the cat and human populations.
Benefits for cats:
- Reduces the risk of cancer: Males can’t develop testicular cancer. Females can’t develop ovarian or uterine cancer and are at a lower risk of mammary cancer.
- Reduces the risk of disease: The chances of catching Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) or Feline Leukaemia Virus (FeLV). Spaying females before their first heat offers the best protection from diseases.
- Reduces the risk of injuries and infections: Unneutered males are more likely to fight, which can often end with them sustaining injuries or suffering from abscesses. If abscesses are left untreated, bacteria can develop under the skin and cause a painful infection.
- No health risks due to pregnancy: Pregnant cats are at risk of developing health problems during the pregnancy and birth.
- Reduces stress: The stress of the heat cycles and looking for a mate is removed.
- Improves behaviour: Males won’t spray strong-smelling urine all over the house to attract females. They won’t be travelling in search of females, therefore the chances of becoming lost or suffering a road accident are greatly reduced. Unneutered females will call or wail regularly around every 3 weeks during sexually active times of the year. This behaviour stops after neutering.
Benefits for people:
- It can save money: Neutered cats are less likely to need veterinary treatment; therefore, your vet bills will decrease. They will also eat less, so owners don’t need to buy as much food.
- It improves home life: No noisy wailing from females in heat, which means no males descending upon the home and having fights. There’ll be no foul-smelling urine from males looking for a mate.
- People will be part of the solution: The community will help to improve the lives of their pets and the cats living on the streets. They will help reduce the number of healthy cats who are euthanized each year.