Saturday, September 24, 2011

Cats, cats, cats

Patch had another checkup at the clinic this morning and she's doing really well, although it's worrying that she seems to be so allergic to fleas that even one bite means an itchy lump that she'll scratch.

She's still on hibiscrub baths twice weekly and is amazingly good about them—probably because they give immediate relief from itches.

In an ideal world she'd be kept in a home with no other animals where it would be relatively easy to make sure absolutely all biting parasites are eliminated. Being an entirely indoor cat would also help as she wouldn't come into contact with hedgehogs or other roaming cats. As things are, I'm upping the frequency of flea treatment for my own cats, and being rigorous about treating the pen she's living in, while being careful to air and dry anything treated with household flea sprays containing permethrin which is toxic to cats if they're directly exposed to it.

However the added complication is that she seems to be mildly incontinent and does sometimes wet her bed at night, which would make it more difficult to keep her entirely indoors. I'm hoping that it may be possible to work on the incontinence problem once her skin trouble is completely under control as the steroid treatment she's on for the allergies will also tend to increase thirst and consequently create a full bladder which then leaks when she's deeply asleep. She's less than a year old and a happy little soul in spite of her problems.

Sarah, the tabby found on Cherry Hinton road with very severe hyperthyroidism seems to have fallen on her paws as the helpful couple who noticed how ill she was and brought her in have offered to foster her for the moment. Younger hyperthyroid cats sometimes make an absolutely dramatic improvement once their condition is under control with medication, so let's hope this will be the case for Sarah.

Hayley, the other hyperthyroid cat, is probably quite a bit older and she seems to be anaemic as well which possibly means she has other underlying issues. She seems well and happy in herself (much brighter than Sarah was when she came in), so the vet's advice is to treat the thyroid problem; worm and de-flea her in case the anaemia is simply parasite related, and see how she goes.

The vets have advised amputation as the best option for the cat with a severe leg injury as they feel the chances of saving the leg are minimal so it wouldn't be fair to put him through surgical repair and possibly have to amputate at a later date anyway.

No news yet on the cat with head injuries sustained in a traffic accident.

If you might be interested in fostering cats (and sometimes other animals) who are recuperating after treatment, please emain for more information.

Friday, September 23, 2011


Someone using the pseudonym Richard Martin has been systematically putting in freedom of information requests to police authorities asking for details about data sharing between the police and the RSPCA inspectorate using the whatdotheyknow  website. You can see the progress of some of these if you search the site and responses are starting to filter back now.

The reply from South Yorkshire police is rather interesting (they're explaining why it would take too long to examine every record of communication between the RSPCA and the police in order to report whether information was being given to the RSPCA by the police or vice versa):

"Since 1st Jan 2005 there are 7354 incidents where the phrase 'RSPCA'
appears in the incident somewhere.

In order to ascertain if the incident relates to requests for information
would require checking the incidents.

There are over 380 incidents where the source name or the source location
includes the phrase 'RSPCA' indicating the call has come from RSPCA rather
than SYP requesting RSPCA.

To view the 380 would take over 30 hours based on 5 minutes per incident."
On this basis it appears that South Yorkshire police made about 20 requests to the RSPCA for every one request from the RSPCA to South Yorkshire. It probably doesn't represent a huge proportion of their total workload, but it does suggest that the RSPCA saves quite a bit of public money by dealing with problems that the police would have to pick up if we didn't exist.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Why use volunteers?

This might seem entirely obvious — we use volunteers to make more money available to help animals — but it's currently a hot topic in general volunteering circles, with some people saying that it's better to cut services than to replace staff with volunteers, and others rather more sensibly arguing that half a loaf is better than no bread and it's preferable to keep a few staff supported by volunteer helpers than making everyone redundant.

From the standpoint of an animal charity I have to admit I find the repeated assertions that volunteers should never, never be seen as "free labour" a bit strange. Volunteers are donating their time and it makes no sense to insist on devising complicated explanations of why this isn't the really important bit of volunteering.

If you're a stray cat with a broken leg, you need a qualified, paid vet to fix it, but you need volunteers to raise the cash that pays the vet.

If you happen to be a merchant banker, it probably would be more useful to us if you bunged us the odd half-million rather than helping out in your leisure time, but, for most of us, volunteering is a way to give the charity a cash equivalent we couldn't afford to donate as actual money from our wages.

Our shops illustrate how this works: we need some paid staff to ensure we can open regularly at the times customers expect, but if all the work involved in running a shop had to be done by paid staff the profit available to use for animals would be minimal, if not non-existant — probably around the 5% received by charities who don't have shops, but get a percentage from commercial "charity bag" collections.

Fundamentally, money is a way of storing the value of work. Whether you do the work directly or donate it as cash, cat food or saleable items, we need your help.

Please visit our shops at 61 Burleigh Street, Cambridge, 10a Market Street, Newmarket, or 188 Mill Road, Cambridge and give us your support.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Volunteers needed at our 2nd hand bookshop

Many thanks to the hard-working volunteers who've made it possible to open our bookshop at 188 Mill road for two extra days per week—so we can now keep on fundraising on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. We still need at least four more people so we can open on Monday and Tuesday, and ideally enough to try opening on Sundays as an experiment.

Mill road is never likely to become busy enough to generate enough income to employ paid staff and still make a profit to fund our animal welfare work (which, after all, is the reason for having a shop at all; there wouldn't be any point if it would actually raise more money if we closed it and I got a second job stacking shelves in Asda and donated the proceeds). However, because rents are low in comparison with more central areas, we can generate really useful funds on a "low input, low output" basis.

Books and CDs need proportionately less manual effort to prepare for sale than the more general charity shop stock, and it's relatively easy to run the shop using amateur enthusiasts. If you love books and reading, there's always something interesting to find among the day's donations.

Don't be daunted by the thought of having to learn to use the till; we arrange training either in the bookshop itself, or up at our main Burleigh Street shop, and there are also back-room tasks that need doing if you really feel it's not your thing.

If you might be interested in volunteering, please email