Saturday, May 15, 2010

What a day!

Up at six; wash up cat bowls; bleach & re-fill litter trays; wash floors; bath to render self acceptable to respectable human company; feed cats; feed self. Tablets for the five cats who need them.

Drop off Fern, who is one of my own cats, to the vet for an ultrasound check of her heart condition. Then back home. Decide no point moping about waiting for the vet to call, so into the shop early. Hardly had time to start discussing plans for next week when the call came to say F. was ready to collect, so turned round and zoomed back to the vet.

Results were not great, but better than I'd been fearing. Fern's heart condition is worse, but not dreadful and they think putting her on beta blockers should get her heart rate down enough to make it possible to think about tackling the underlying problem, which is that her hyperthyroidism has stopped responding to carbimazole treatment. Back home with F. and a packet of tablets to add to her collection of medication.

Then back to the shop again. We've no volunteers to cover Saturday afternoons at the moment, so I did the till while Bettina (shop manager) carried on with pricing and refilling gaps where items had been sold. Ideally we'd have at least three people, so that one could do the till; another keep moving new stock out onto the shop floor, and the third sort, steam and price stock ready to be put out.

It was a fairly busy day, although most people weren't going for the more expensive things. Ffiona and Bettina have just put out all the really good ball gowns that they've been saving up for the May Ball season, so let's hope those go when that kicks off at the end of the month. Right now the students are in the middle of exams, so probably not in the mood for retail therapy.

As often happens, there was a surge of activity just before five, so I couldn't bail out until just past the hour. I hared off to the clinic as I was supposed to be meeting a work experience pupil at five and got there at five twenty with no sign of the pupil. I hope he either couldn't make it or forgot, but he was ever so keen on the telephone, so I rather fear he arrived on time, found everything locked up & went away disappointed.

Hung around for another hour dealing with post and emptying the rubbish in case he went back home and phoned my mobile when he got there, then decided to call it a day. Back home; quick shop run for weekend food; then cat food and litter to one of our fosterers.

We really, really need more volunteers to cover the shops.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Volunteers email list

We now have a Google Groups list for volunteers in an attempt to make it easier to keep in touch with everyone. You can view the web version of the list or sign up to get new messages by email.

If you'd like to be added to the list, but have trouble signing up, please email and I'll add you in.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Fostering animals for the branch

We had a fairly typical call on Sunday from an elderly lady who'd been feeding a stray cat in her garden and watching with alarm as Kitty's pregnancy became more and more obvious. Her little dog was scared of cats and she herself was allergic, so she couldn't bring the cat indoors to have the kittens, and in any case she was very worried what she would do if urgent veterinary attention was needed. She was convinced that Kitty might be about to give birth at any moment, so was desperate to get her into a safe home. 

From our point of view this kind of situation is an emergency because, once the kittens had been born outside it would be very hard to find them and give them enough human contact to stop them growing up wild. In a year's time any female kittens would be able to have kittens of their own and in no time at all there would be a colony of hard-to-home cats and complaints about mess and smell.

So many thanks to one of our fosterers for coming up trumps and taking mother-to-be in at 30 minutes notice. The elderly lady had obviously been feeding her well and handled her enough to get her tame enough to settle comfortably indoors, so we should have no difficulty finding her a home provided all goes well with the birth.

Would you be interested in fostering animals for us?

You need to be living in premises where animals are allowed, but a garden is not essential as most fostered animals are either very young or recovering from injuries and need to be confined inside. 

Typically we try to get puppies, young kittens and/or their expectant mothers into foster homes so that they can benefit from social contact with humans and other animals. Kittens and puppies who spend their first weeks in kennels tend to grow up shy and have more difficulty adjusting to life in a normal family home.

We also try to use foster homes for recuperating injured or sick animals so they can get more TLC than in busy boarding kennels and to avoid too many trips between the kennels and our clinic.

The need for foster homes is fairly unpredictable, so we try to keep a roster of people who don't mind being contacted when an animal needs to come in. Families with children are ideal for socialising young animals because it means they get a broad experience of different types of people and are more likely to be friendly with everyone. If you have children who are going to be very upset if the fostered animal doesn't survive, it might be best to be selective about taking on injured animals.

All foster homes are visited by our homing co-ordinator before animals are placed with them. Basically this is a similar visit to the ones we do before placing animals in permanent homes, except that the homing co-ordinator will also discuss the practicalities of caring for injured or very young animals (e.g. loaning the foster home a suitable cage for animals who need to be confined).

The branch will cover expenses such as food and cat litter and any veterinary costs involved.

If you might be interested in fostering, please email

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Join the RSPCA

If you've ever grumbled that, "the RSPCA doesn't do...." you should consider joining so that you have a vote in the selection of the governing council.

If you join now you won't be eligible to vote in this year's ballot, but you will next year, and you will also be eligible to stand for election to your local branch committee and to vote at their AGM.

You can apply to join online via the National RSPCA website  and unless you specify that you prefer NOT to join your local branch, a proportion of your membership fee will be given to the branch where you live.

Ten of the 25 National RSPCA Council members are elected by the branches on a regional basis, so branch membership also feeds back into National policy making.

And handover to the newly elected Council is, well... rather more rapid than after the other election.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Volunteering at our charity shops

We urgently need more volunteers at our shop at 61 Burleigh street. This is a big shop, now taking over £300 every day, but high turnover means that we need lots of helpers to keep donations moving out onto the shop floor.

Basically the process goes like this:
  • Unsorted goods come in, either brought to the shop by individual donors, or collected via house-clearance runs or "trawling" (which is where we drop off collection bags in a street and return next week to pick them up, hopefully containing lots of things we can sell).
  • We empty the bags into a large sorting bin, separating any obviously unsaleable items. Unsaleable textiles, shoes and metal items are bagged up for sale to recycling merchants. 
  • The remaining items are checked again (e.g. for missing buttons, rips, stains). 
  •  Any out-of season clothes (e.g. heavy winter coats in summer) are put into storage for their correct season.
  • In-season clothes are hung on coathangers on a movable clothes rail, and items like crockery, bags, hats, shoes etc. are sorted into storage boxes.
  • We use a steamer (basically similar to a large kettle with a flexible plastic spout ending in a bar like a vacuum cleaner attachment) to iron out creases and generally freshen up the clothes so that they look attractive.
  • Each item of clothing is checked for size labels and the correct "size cube" is attached to its hanger. A price tag is completed and attached using a "pricing gun". Items like crockery and bric-à-brac are priced using sticky lables.
  • As items on the shop floor are sold, the sales area is continually "topped up" from the clothes rail and the storage boxes in the back room. It's essential to keep up the flow so that the shop never looks bare and customers will keep on being attracted to come back.
At present we don't have enough volunteers to ensure that there is always at least one person to work in the back room as well as the one sitting at the till in the shop. Most of the time it would be useful to have at least two backroom helpers, so that one can be preparing goods and the other putting them out, as well as giving the person on the till cover for breaks.

If you might be interested in helping, please drop in at 61 Burleigh Street any day Monday-Saturday between 11 am and 5 pm.

Our shops are our only good source of regular income, and by supporting them you would be giving a real boost to our ability to provide local animal welfare services. It's also fun and a wonderful way to meet like-minded people

Monday, May 10, 2010

Dereliction of duty?

I wasn't planning to blog about the media criticism of the way we have to prioritise need when deciding which animals we can or can't accept for rehoming, but something that happened yesterday annoyed me so much I felt I had to mention it.

At present our branch funds are too low for us to afford to run our animal clinic, care for injured strays and other animals taken in via the inspectors and help owners with the cost of veterinary treatment at private vets. Paying part of the cost at private vets is the least cost-effective way of getting animals treated, so, sadly, we have had to decide that we can only help low-income owners via our clinic. This has open sessions on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings, and, after an animal has been registered at one of these, our service provider will treat him/her outside normal hours in an emergency provided registration is kept up by annual visits to the clinic for booster vaccinations.

Of course, this leaves the insoluble problem of animals whose owners have absolutely no money and haven't been registered. Vets are supposed to have a professional duty to relieve pain and suffering, so, in theory, it should at least be possible for any owner to have their animal put to sleep rather than live on in misery. Veterinary surgeries are businesses (and have to be), so it's not reasonable to expect them to go beyond this at their own expense, because they'd simply go bust, which would help no-one in the long term.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, yesterday morning I had a phone call from a tearful owner whose pet needed to be put to sleep. The veterinary practice concerned wouldn't see her at all unless someone was prepared to put up some money. In the circumstances, as someone who's not being paid by anyone, it makes me very cross to have talk about "dereliction of duty" when the RSPCA, which is after all a charity, tries to stretch funds so that they cover the cases of most need.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Volunteer Meetings: change of date and venue

We've decided to move the monthly volunteer meetings to our shop at 61 Burleigh st. as most people seemed to prefer a more central location.

The regular meetings will now be 7.30-9.30 pm on the third Thursday of each month (try saying that quickly!) They'll be fairly informal, so people can arrive and leave to suit themselves between those times. Please drop in if you're interested in finding more about RSPCA Cambridge and what we do locally.
Parking at the Adam and Eve Street public car park is free after 7 pm. Map below shows the shop location on Burleigh Street and the pedestrian access from Adam and Eve Street.

View RSPCA E61 in a larger map
Fiona has just pointed out that the next meeting, on May 20th, is the day following the training session for potential bookshop volunteers  on 19th May. If you are interested in volunteering at our bookshop (188 Mill Road), please go to the training session in preference to the general volunteer meeting if you can't do both. The general meetings will be a regular feature, so you won't miss out if you have to skip one or two of them.

The June meeting will be combined with the branch AGM and will be at the Friends Meeting House, Jesus Lane, Cambridge on 17th June (same times). Subsequent meetings will be at the shop again.