Nescot’s rehoming cattery is going from strength to strength, 20 months since the initiative was launched.
Staff and Animal Studies students working at the cattery, which is run in association with Blue Cross pet charity, have cared for and rehomed 36 cats and now have new premises in the redeveloped Animal Care Unit (ACU).
The cattery now has five cat pens, an ancillary room for staff and students to use for preparing feeds, medication and paperwork, and a ‘home room’ for people to meet or say goodbye to their pet.
The home room is set up with sofas and chairs in order that the cats can spend time in an environment like one they will be rehomed into, and student volunteers can sit quietly with the cats or play with them.
The cattery has been so successful already that Blue Cross sends representatives from other colleges to Nescot to learn from the project.
“The cattery has been working really well for the cats, and the students are learning a huge amount from it,” said Animal Studies lecturer Zoe Brown, who coordinates the project along with staff members Marcus Latter and Sarah Cudd.
“It’s a great opportunity for the students to learn about handling the animals, cat behaviour and cat psychology and different types and breeds of cats.
“They learn the technical side of managing a cattery or kennel, like cleaning the pens and about hygiene and health and safety protocols, and the admin side of writing profiles and keeping paperwork in order.
“They also learn a lot of soft skills, like having the confidence to deal with difficult situations such as when a person is forced to give up a cat they have loved for years.
“The students even get involved in the real nitty-gritty, like how to photograph the cats to show off their personality, and why it’s so important for the cats’ welfare that you maintain exemplary standards.”
Zoe has also set up a Facebook group for people who have adopted a cat from the centre, to help them to stay in touch with the centre, share pictures and get care, diet and behaviour tips from staff.
The cattery, which was set up in September 2013, follows the Animal Studies department’s ethos as being as ‘work-like’ as possible.
Students on the Level 3 Kennel and Cattery Management unit are involved in the project as part of their class work, performing duties such as carrying out behaviour checks, cleaning the pens and preparing feeds.
They are supported by Feline Enrichment Volunteers, Level 2 and 3 students who go through an application and interview process and then spend time with the cats, keeping them company and playing with them.
“You’re changing the cats’ lives forever, so that’s really special to be involved in,” said Leigh Gaspar, a second-year Level 3 student who volunteers at the cattery.
“On the Level 3 course you learn so much about so many different animals, and it makes all the difference to be able to actually go and spend time with those animals and see what you’ve learnt there in real life.”
At the moment, the cattery is caring for Romie, who is five years old, Bailey and Alfie, both seven, and Cooper and Caffee, both six.
The ACU moved across to the other side of the Nescot campus in December, as part of the college redevelopment.
The new facilities include changing rooms, kennels, stable yard, paddocks and enclosures for ferrets, and animals being cared for outside range from dogs and cats to chickens, ducks, pigs and sheep, with additional plans to accommodate prairie dogs and rescued donkeys and ponies.
The main teaching block has a farm office and briefing room, where students on ‘animal duties’ will report to find out their responsibilities, a small mammal room, rodent room and exotics room.
Sick, injured and homeless pets have relied on Blue Cross since 1987. Every year thousands of cats, dogs, small pets and horses turn to the charity’s animal hospitals, clinics and rehoming services for treatment and to find the happy homes they deserve.