A woman has been hailed a heroine for felines after fostering her 100th cat – and her 101st, 102nd, 103rd…
Joanne Park, 41, has been temporarily housing the county’s stray, abandoned and unwanted cats and kittens since October 2010. Her home in Currock, Carlisle, comes complete with converted cat room – which can be split in half with wire doors – and even an isolation room… off her bathroom. Joanne, who works part-time in a laboratory at the city’s Cumberland Infirmary, admitted that she is a “bit of a cat woman”. She is one of three women who are “foster mums” for animal charity the Blue Cross.
Joanne recently took in cat number 100 – an inquisitive moggy called Nerine. “She came from a lovely home in Gretna, but the owner had a boisterous German Shepherd puppy and she was worried,” Joanne recalled. “We also took in her sister Naeva – my number 101.
“We knew Naeva was pregnant, but weren’t so sure about Nerine until she started expanding.” On March 3 Naeva gave birth to four all-black kittens, and her sister Nerine followed suit on March 13 with three black and white kittens and one grey one. “I guess that takes me up to 109,” Joanne joked. “We also took in an all white Norwegian Forest cat on Tuesday, so I’m up to 110 already. “It is easy for the number to climb when you have kittens.”
Nerine and Naeva have already temporarily been found a new home together, but will not be rehomed until the kittens are weaned. The kittens themselves will not be ready for rehoming for at least six weeks – details will be on the Blue Cross Facebook page. Despite the hard work – and the sorrow when cats wait for months to find a forever home – Joanne insists it is worth it. “I have had lots of different jobs in my life, and I have never had the sense of achievement and reward I get from doing this,” she explained. “I just love cats, which helps. “I don’t know if because you don’t get paid, it is an altruistic pleasure, because it is so worthwhile working for a charity.” Joanne added: “Some of the cats arrive in an appalling condition and we turn that around and take a beautiful photo and the next day they have got a home. I don’t think you can top that feeling.”
The only thing better than waving a cat off to its new home, are the follow-up emails from contented owners which come accompanied by photographs of the felines settled into their new abode. Michelle Smith, Blue Cross regional fostering manager, said: “We are so grateful to all of our hard-working volunteers but, with the arrival of Nerine, Joanne really deserves to be recognised for her endless dedication, commitment and time in helping so many homeless pets. It is with enormous thanks to Joanne that we have been able to find happy new lives for so many local cats in need.”
Joanne has five cats herself, but these are kept very separate from the foster cats. “You don’t know what they are carrying,” she insisted. There is usually no difficulty rehoming the kittens – and people travel from as far as Winchester, Edinburgh and London for their new pet. It is the “normal” young adults which are much harder. “Black cats and black and white cats are actually the hardest,” Joanne said. “There are so many of them; people want something a bit different.”
Although all the Blue Cross foster mums live in Carlisle, the trio cover all of Cumbria and south west Scotland and desperately need more help. Anyone can become a foster carer Sarch for Blue Cross Cumbria on Facebook or visit www.bluecross.org.