We hadn’t been in Spain very long before we saw stray cats. They are in most built up areas and our doughy eyed selves couldn’t help cooing over them but also being concerned. While traveling in the Pyrenees we found a car park on the edge of a village called El Pueyo De Jaca, it was an idyllic place with a meadow and mountains all around. We had planned to stay a few days to explore the area but next morning that all changed when Joe went out and came back shouting ‘There’s a box of kittens!’ Sure enough there were 4 little kittens, a couple of months old, in a cardboard box on the edge of the car park.
abandoning animals is unfortunately a pretty regular occurrence in Spain
The kittens looked well, but a couple of them were getting out of the box and wandering towards a stream. We really didn’t know what to do as there was no one around or even any shops in the village to ask in. So we did some Googling for animal and cat shelters in the area and found one in the town of Jaca, half an hour away. Calling them put us through to an answer machine message we couldn’t understand so there was nothing for it, we had to bundle them up and drive to Jaca.
When we get to Jaca there was no shelter to be found, so we found a car park to stop at and called again. When we managed to get hold of them we found it wasn't a shelter, just a fostering organisation which was full to the brim already. As it turned out Spain has no equivalent of the RSPCA (a British animal rescue center) and very few animal charities, all of which are massively overwhelmed. It seems abandoning animals is unfortunately a pretty regular occurrence in Spain. There is the state animal control but unless claimed the kittens would be put down and we couldn’t just hand them over to die! The Jaca charity did the best they could for us and put a plea out on their Facebook. So we decided we had to look after them until we found somewhere that would take them in, and they would be safe.
we couldn’t help becoming attached to the little devils
We spent two days with the rambunctious kittens in the van. It was wonderful and utterly exhausting! They trusted us quickly and after some food and water were causing mayhem in our van. We’ve both had cats before but being overrun with 4 mischievous kittens, trying to bite, scratch, climb and go to the toilet on everything was a lot more than we were prepared for, especially in our tiny space. We are softies at heart and when they curled up asleep in our arms we couldn’t help becoming attached to the little devils.
Over two days and two sleepless nights we contacted every cat charity and animal shelter we could that was in a feasible driving distance away. Eventually one in southern France came back to us telling us they we're too far away but there was one close to the Spanish border only 2 1/2 hours away from where we were. They gave us the details but we were unable to reach them over the phone. It was still the best lead we had, so on the third day we decided to make the drive and see if they would take them in.
we were sleep deprived, covered in cat scratches and the van smelt like cat pee, we were really going to miss the little scamps
The kittens didn’t take too kindly to being kept in a box for the drive so we had to stop frequently to get them to calm down and stay put. When we found our way there the ladies we met who run the place were very welcoming but spoke no English and we spoke no French so Google translate had to do the job of explaining for us. After some paperwork it was time for our goodbyes and our hearts broke a little. Though we were sleep deprived, covered in cat scratches and the van smelt like cat pee, we were really going to miss the little scamps. Even though it had only been 3 days we had grown attached and if things had been different we would have taken them in, but van life is no place for 4 kittens.
Over this holiday season we contacted the sanctuary and asked what became of them, they replied simply that they had all been adopted. This was our first Christmas in the van and presents this year seemed silly, as we were never apart long enough to buy or make anything, so instead our present to ourselves was to sponsor a cat. It was the best present we’ve ever got each other and hopefully our monthly updates on our sponsored cat Daisy will help curb our hankering for a kitty.
general information on what to do if you find an abandoned cat in Spain
The charities we contacted gave us some general information on what to do if you find an abandoned cat in Spain. This is some general advice and we are no experts so be sure to reach out to the appropriate authorities if you need help.
- If it looks well, its most likely a feral cat and does not need any human intervention. This can be hard but often they are actually better off in the wild then being take to a shelter to be put down.
- If you find kittens (without a box) wait and watch them, see if their mum comes back to them or if she near by. They could likely be a litter from a feral cat and will be looked after by her.
- If the cat or kitten seems abandoned or injured then you will have to make the decision to take action or not. Be aware that calling a local government animal shelter (in Spain) will mean they will only be kept for approx 10-14 days before being put down unless someone claims them.
- If it is injured and there is no charity near by you many have to find a vet where you will have to pay for treatment.
- Local vets generally know of animal shelters in the area so are a good place to go if you find an animal in need.
- Young kittens that cannot fend for themselves will need special kitten milk or will deteriorate quickly, vets sell this milk and its important not to give them normal cows milk as it can upset their stomachs and make things worse.
- If you can, like we did, take the animal(s) in and get them fed and watered before searching for a charity or shelter.
- Remember that if you are staying somewhere with feral cats and you decide to feed them on a regular basis this can actually do more harm as they will become reliant on you. Also cats will only breed when there is a regular source of food so you may be unwittingly bringing more stray animals into the world.
If you would like to know more about the charities that helped us or show your support they are:
And the shelter that we sponsor our cat from is www.bluecross.org.uk
Thank you for reading and Happy Holidays everyone!
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