Blog post by our branch manager Susie: We started the week setting up our cat isolation facility ready to accept animals from homes where occupants have tested positive for COVID-19. We already have infectious disease protocols in place but with so much unknown about the virus we’ve had to take a fresh look at procedures. We spent time setting up our cat isolation room and then rehearsing how we will actually put the protocol into practice. With the shocking amount of deaths it isn’t a question of if but when our dedicated facility will be required.

We have had 6 new arrivals this week all from around the North region, as so few centres are open for admissions. One stray rabbit, two collapsed cats found by members of the public, one neglect case and two sign overs  – each with their own story to tell. What has struck me most about recent new arrivals is their potential for transformation. I have to say there is nothing more rewarding than seeing an animal grow in confidence and improve in health. Sometimes it takes days and on other occasions months (as you will see from our ‘spotlight’ feature on foster carers each week).

The first arrival this week was Cally. She was in quite a shocking state. Her skin ravaged by fleas, she has two nasty cat bite abscesses on her hip, she’s underweight and her coat all patchy and dull. She looked sore. We knew the best thing we could do for her was place her in a foster home but we had to forewarn the carers just how upsetting she looked. Much to everyone’s delight Cally settled in really quickly and within a few days was clearly feeling a lot more comfortable and started to groom herself. Already we can see quite a transformation in her but it will be some time before she will be fully healed and we know what type of forever home she needs, as early indications are that she may be deaf.

First day in foster

Blaze the rabbit was found straying on a busy main road in Manchester. He had a condition called gut stasis. The combination of ill health and straying didn’t really add up because he would be almost immobile with pain. Thankfully Blaze is doing really well and is finding his paws at the centre, it’s so good to see such a change in him so soon and we know he will now just go from strength to strength.

Emmett and Marina have come from South Yorkshire due a lack of space closer to home. Marina is 8 years old and has had at least 4 litters of kittens. Her eyes are very sore and look like she has a condition called entropian. We have to treat the eye infection first before we can see if she needs surgery. Emmett is a handsome, shy tabby boy who has come from the same home as Marina. He is currently a little overwhelmed but we are hoping he will find his paws soon.

We then had the pleasure of finally being able to admit manky beast Malachi. He was apparently found collapsed over the Easter weekend, having not moved for 3 days. We spent all week hoping he would be well enough to be discharged and on Friday we got our wish. The state of him really is breath-taking but at the same time you can see the potential for such a huge transformation. He is already proving to be a lovely cat and I for one am excited to see how he changes whilst he is with us.

Theodore was the last arrival of the week on Friday afternoon. He had been found collapsed 3 days previously in Southport and admitted to a local vet. He needed to be moved but nowhere local could take him. A chance conversation between myself and a local inspector triggered off a quick chain of reaction and he was transferred straight to the care of Ashleigh vets in South Manchester, who look after our animals. It transpired that Theodore has a rare condition and in need of intense supportive care. Although off duty over the weekend his attending vet committed to going in to drain his chest as and when required – what a hero! The future is uncertain just yet for Theodore but we will pull out all the stops to help him thanks to the amazing team at Ashleigh.

These new arrivals give you a flavour of who we meet and care for on a regular basis. It’s that potential to change lives, see them grow and transform beyond recognition that is so rewarding about the work we do. One such chap, who has absolutely amazed us all is Astor. You may remember he featured in last week’s blog. He followed a member of the public home a long way, he had his ear tip removed, indicative of being feral and neutered. Well in the two weeks he has been with us he has blossomed into the most beautiful natured cat. He is a lovely, friendly boy who is quietly confident, what I call ‘unassuming’. He generally keeps himself to himself but when you go into his pen he comes out for a fuss and a cuddle. The pictures of him with our team member Claudia just makes my heart burst with pride. It’s why we all do our job. Astor will need to be a house cat because he is FIV positive, and he may take a while to find a home because he is black and all beaten up by his hard life on the streets, but I know someone out there will love him.

A very unhappy lad on arrival

We ended the working week with the welcome news that we can resume rehoming again, albeit under strict guidelines. We knew this was coming so we’ve been spending a lot of time this week getting animals photographed and videoed. Already we have found several wonderful homes for the furry folk and we have many more to list. It is such a relief that we can get things moving again so we can keep saying yes to animals that need to come in and get our current animals in the loving homes they desperately need to complete their stories.

Spotlight on our foster carers

Volunteer foster carer Sara has been caring for Frank the cat since the 7th January 2020. Frank was rescued in November, after his owner had left him to inexplicably suffer with a massive facial and oral lesion. The inspector sought to bring a case of neglect against the owner but they did a ‘disappearing act’! Frank’s rehabilitation is still ongoing and it is fair to say him and Sara are best friends.

“I’ve been fostering for the RSPCA for about two and a half years now, and it’s been a great experience. I decided to sign up to foster cats because when I returned to the UK after living overseas for several years, I really wanted a cat of my own but I’m living in a small-ish flat which I don’t think would suit a cat in the long term. Fostering seemed like the perfect compromise. I’m so glad I did it, especially now that we are in lockdown as I live alone and would be truly lonely without the company of my current foster cat, Frank.

Frank has been living with me for four months, which is longer than average because he has health problems that we still haven’t resolved. Despite the fact that he was badly neglected before being rescued by the RSPCA, Frank has always been a happy little chap and he is very much a people person. He likes to follow me around the flat and nap in whichever room I’m in, and I think he’s really enjoying having me at home all day! Since working from home I’ve discovered there’s a neighbourhood cat who likes to spend its days lounging in our garden, and that Frank ‘talks’ to him from the windowsill.

The most difficult thing about fostering has always been building up a relationship with a cat and then having to say goodbye once they’ve been adopted. I think that’s going to be especially difficult with Frank, but it will be worth it to know he’s going to a good home with people who will love him as much as I do.”

Fiona has been fostering for us since 2016 and in that time has looked after 17 rabbits. Fiona shares her story:

“I first found out about fostering when I adopted my rabbit many years ago from another branch of the RSPCA when I went to visit him in his foster home. I had never heard of fostering animals before but I thought it was a great idea and something I would love to do in the future. After my rabbits passed away I decided to give it a go and I am so glad I did. I find fostering very rewarding as each rabbit is different and getting to know them and their ways is always a treat. Most of them are not too used to human company when I get them so it takes time to get them to trust you, but when they take food out of your hand or let you stroke them for the first time it  is a great feeling.

It can be hard to say goodbye to them, I did foster for a year with one group of rabbits and I did have mixed feelings when they were adopted but they went to a fantastic home. I just keep in mind that I only have them for a short time and enjoy the time I have with them.

Since I have been fostering, I have looked after baby bunnies, nervous bunnies, partially sighted bunnies, poorly bunnies, mischievous bunnies and currently I have two extra large bunnies. Nixie and Myzska are staying with me during the lockdown. They were nicknamed the big furry slippers by staff at the centre which I can see why as they are often found sitting next to each other like a pair of furry slippers. As they are on the large size, we were not sure if they would be able to access all three floors of my hutch as the entrances are 6inches by 4inches, but they squeezed their way through much to my surprise.

Fostering during lockdown is a welcome distraction from everything that is going on in the world. Nixie and Myzska love their food and are very keen to see me when I go out to them in the hopeI will have something tasty for them. I usually do my shopping online which has become more difficult as I am limited to one shop a week and some of the items are limited. I was surprised to find I am limited to one cabbage or bag of kale a week. I wouldn’t have thought stockpiling of cabbage was an issue but sadly for the girls they are only allowed one cabbage a week between the two of them. To make up for their cabbage rationing I was keen to get them out on to my lawn so they could nibble at the grass but unfortunately they were too big to fit through the existing hole to get out into the run.  Luckily my husband was so bored that he set about making a hole for them to fit through using bits and bobs he found in the shed. It was such a joy to watch the girls stepping onto grass for probably the first time in their lives and  watch as they both tried to eat as much grass as they could as they didn’t want to waste the new opportunity they had been given . They had been sitting looking at the lawn for a couple of weeks not being able to get at it so to finally be able to get their teeth into it they didn’t want to waste a minute. I am looking forward to spending the next few weeks watching them playing in the garden, eating all my grass and growing in confidence. I can’t think of a better way to spend lockdown.”

Nixie and Myszka are now available for adoption!