Sunday, 28 August 2011


The answer is, of course, yes; but I suspect that they are fewer than most people think. 

Case in point. Yesterday I got a call from a couple who live in Seaham. He had found a young cat which at first seemed dead but had perked up a little when he touched it. As it seemed in poor condition, he took it home and called Animal Krackers (me). Young cat, poor condition: I'd go see it but no promises.

When I arrived it was in their living room tucking into cat food and without getting close I could tell it wasn't a young cat and that it wasn't in good condition. When I picked it up and looked closer I found it hardly had any teeth and those it did have were in a bad state. I gave it about a year. I also thought that it had probably just been sleeping near to it own home. I suggested that they take it back to where it was found (only three streets away) and keep an open for it. They were happy to feed the cat and give it access to a shed at night but they had two Norwegian forest (or something like that) cats which didn't like intruders.

It's too easy to think that a cat which turns up on your doorstep asking for food, or is wandering around and not in the best of condition, has been either abandoned or is a stray. If they are just ignored they often find their own way home.

And I'll have to take break here as I've just received a call from a lady who has been feeding a cat -less than a year old- for the last three days but can't keep it because she has dogs.So I'm off to check it out. It's only a few streets away.


And I'm back.

With a young un-neutered male tabby cat maybe around 8 months old. 

The first thing I did was put him in the living room with litter, food and water. He seems friendly, though he growls if disturbed when eating. I'll do a poster and put it in the shop window. I think there's a very good chance that he's a local cat and he's in good condition so I'm hopefully his owner will claim him.

And here's a couple of other photos.

The ginger kitten has a home waiting, the other two haven't.

Sunday, 21 August 2011


Unusually, even very unusually, all my 8 cats turned up in the kitchen this morning to eat their breakfast. Half had been out all night and half had stayed in. Their choice in every case. What they don't do usually is all eat at the same time -6 together is the most, often less. I really can't remember the last time I saw all eight in the same place at the same time, not even in the garden.

Top left is Blossom. Top right is Max. Both are easily disturbed from their food.
Below Max is Toffy the tortoiseshell and next to her is ginger Leo. Leo gobbles his food down so as to finish first and shove someone else out of the way and start eating their food. 
Below him is Lilly the short haired grey. Lily tends to get picked on by all the others except for Toffy and Bob and doesn't spend much time in the house, preferring to curl up in a cat kennel at the bottom of the garden or on a bench.
The last three in descending order are Ted (looking at the camera) (Little) Bob (there is no Big Bob) and lastly Daisy whose preferred spot is curled up next to me on my bed.

The origin of my cats

Blossom was found, as a kitten, on scaffolding outside our doctor's surgery by Susan. We did try to find her owner but to no avail. Her long fur gets into tats quite often.

Max was handed in at the shop aged about six months old. We'd just lost a black and white cat and he was just so friendly.

Toffy turned up at the shop in heat and proved not to be as friendly as we first thought. She's not unfriendly but mostly likes to be by herself. She'll stay out all night and sleep all day.

Leo was a kitten I got from Carole while Susan was away on holiday with her brother and his family. I told her I got him from someone who was going to chuck him out. He's a lovely friendly boy who sometimes takes a swing at a passing cat.

Lily we got at 5 weeks old from an elderly lady after her mother accidentally smothered Lily's litter-mates. We tend to think it was the dog which shared the house. Lily loves people but is bullied by the others axcept for Toffy (who just isn't interested) and Bob (who likes everybody).

Ted was a two year old from Carol's who caught Susan's attention by jumping on her from the ground. He's a large and amiable laid-back cat who is patient with any new young arrivals like the final two.

All-black Little Bob loves everyone, cats and people. About fifteen months old now he is just the most loveable and nice-natured of cats.

Daisy arrived three months earlier than Bob and while they were kittens and young cats were inseparable. Daisy doesn't like being picked up but is otherwise very friendly and is prone to knock a book out of my hand when I'm sitting reading on the toilet just to get my attention to stroke her.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011


This afternoon I took two young cats to Roker Park to be neutered, leaving them there overnight. I also brought with me a newly arrived 12 week old kitten just to be checked out. 

I never managed to return him to Carole's. This is his short story.

It started out as just a normal food run. However, as I started unloading at Carole's after arriving just before mid-day, she came out and told me a kitten had been handed in at Pets At Home shop on the North Hylton Trading Estate so off I went to pick it up. When I got there I found three young girls waiting for me with one of them holding it. Apparently they'd found it in a box at Castletown. I thanked them and popped it into the cat carrier. It seemed a nice little kitten with a loud purr and thick ginger fur.

On the way back while driving along the Wessington Way dual carriageway I spotted a stationary lorry with a car parked at an angle in the same lane as me. I slowed down to overtake it and when I did saw a man and a woman out of there vehicles looking at a motionless young fox standing in the middle of the lane. I couldn't stop because of other traffic and didn't have anything to contain the animal, plus it would have taken at least five minutes to get back there and anything could have happened by then. Rather reluctantly I took the kitten to Carole's and went home.

Next day -today, as I've said- I picked it up and the other two young cats.

In the surgery I took some more photos of the ginger kitten.
Both receptionists were quite taken with him and so was Wendy the vet. In the examination room, Wendy checked him out, spotting the conjunctivitis immediately, but he was otherwise fine. I mentioned my soft spot for ginger cats which, it turned out, Wendy shared. She had also lost a cat recently and was waiting for a special one to come along. She picked him up and stroked him commenting on his loud purr. 

"Well," I said, "if you might be interested I'd make a decision quickly as he won't be at Carole's for long. Wendy replied that she couldn't unless she wanted to risk a divorce. I thought Wendy was smitten. She asked, "Can I bring him back if he doesn't get on with my other cat?"

And that is why I didn't take the ginger kitten back to Carole's. The little kitten, abandoned one day, has found the best home possible the next -with a kind and loving vet (as long as he plays his cards right.)

Now you tell me that isn't a fairy tale ending.

And just to finish, a mother with kittens.

Friday, 12 August 2011


I'm not talking about cats which have nice secure homes who can enjoy the sunshine (on the rare occasions we get any) and the warm days. I'm talking about the ones in need of new homes, or at least a place in a rescue. Summer seems to be a bad time for them. All the rescues are full; not that they aren't full all the time. But there seems to be more cats in need. And we, and this we is all the cat rescues not just ours, can't take them all. In fact we can hardly take any. It's a bad time for re-homing too because people are going on holiday and aren't really thinking about taking on a new cat. Cats just aren't being re-homed much  from mid-July to mid-August.

This week I seem to be averaging 2-3 calls a day and having to turn down all of them. I try to make suggestions, usually that they log on to to try other rescues in the area even as I know they're in just as bad a state as we are. But I can't bring myself to slam the door in the caller's face. I try to offer the slender chance of hope.

Today a lady called on behalf of a woman going into a refuge. She needed homes for the woman's three cats, dog, and a rabbit. The RSPCA had already told her they would destroy the cats. We couldn't take the cats but I gave her Phil's number and said he may be able to help with the dog and rabbit. The rabbit at least could go in the hutch at the back of our Grangetown shop. (It feels strange to have to specify which of our shops -our shops! We are a chain!)

Earlier this week I got a call from a lady whose elderly (mid-80's) parents had been feeding a stray cat but theirs was fighting with it and they couldn't deal with it. On impulse, I said I'd call round at teatime as I'd be on my way home from the vets and it wasn't much out of the way. So I went and looked at the cat. It was old with very bad teeth, thin, and with what I thought (correctly as it turned out) was a cancerous lump on its stomach. I told them that I thought the best thing would be to put it to sleep. They agreed to this and offered to pay the costs (which they did, plus a donation for us, and some cat food). Before I could sort this out, they rang me again to say that Pawz For Thought had put an ad in the lost column of the Sunderland Echo. That was a good thing but unsurprisingly it came to nothing. I suspected the cat had been deliberately abandoned as the family had tried to find its owner. So today I took it to Roker Park Vets where Wendy agreed with me that the best thing was to put it to sleep.

This was the third time we'd done that this week. On Monday an elderly cat of Carol's which had quickly started going downhill went the journey. Then on Thursday, Baby, the Lanchester kitten I'd rescued, which had been deteriorating for several weeks despite numerous trips to the vets, had to have an end to her suffering. Such a shame as she was a lovely natured little cat. I'd never expected her to have a long life but I didn't expect it would be only just over a year.

Yesterday I got a call from Carol. A woman had phoned her from Wallsend on the other side of the Tyne, east of Newcastle. She had a seven month old female to re-home because tomorrow she was leaving the area and Carol was concerned about it. I called the local branch of Cats Protection. Actually I made a mistake and rang the Gateshead branch not the north Tyneside one. By the time they rang back after I'd left a message I'd already sorted something out but did have a mutually sympathetic chat about the terrible situation we cat rescuers were in. I called the owner and explained I couldn't go through as I didn't know Wallsend at all and just couldn't do it at rush hour. I'd had a busy day as it was. However if she brought it through on the Metro... I got a few things sorted, went to pick up Carol and take her to the vets with Baby, and then to Seaburn Metro station where the woman (and two small children) arrived with the cat. I then took it to the vets to leave overnight and be neutered the following day (today).

Shortly after I got back home and as a result of the photo in the Sunderland Echo (which I can't reprint here as the scanner drivers are missing), a nice family came to see Josie. Now I'd gotten to know Josie a little better over the last few days and she isn't an easy cat. Try and pick her up when she's not in the mood and she'll attack. She's terrified of other cats and even when I leave the living room door open she'll stay where she is. Much as I want to re-home her, she wouldn't have been suitable for them. I contacted Carol who had a young cat in mind and they went over to hers straight away. They took the recently neutered young cat and the mother went back again today to take an older cat to live in the old people's home where she works. Result!

A bit of a mixed week, more down than ups. Next week I expect more of the same.

And you know what the real problem is? It isn't lack of money. While our charity isn't rolling in it by a long long way, we could afford to take in more than we do. What we don't have is enough people to look after the cats which need rescuing. Carol takes most of our cats. I'll foster the odd one. We have two other fosterers. Now and again StrayAid and  Tracy at Burnhope will take a couple. But it's not enough. It's nowhere near enough. Too many people take in cats (and dogs and rabbits and guinea pigs and bird and...and...and..) without really thinking what they're doing. Susan and I will not take on any more cats even though we're only in our early 60's because we don't know what's going to happen in the future. People just don't think and it's up to committed animal lovers like us to help out. But it's not enough.

It's never enough.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011


Usually I transport cats in the shop van. Sometimes but not often, if Phil isn't available, it may be a dog. I've also picked up a rabbit. This time, three animals from three different species were in need of re-homing at the same time and Tracy of Tendercare Cattery at Burnhope (see several previous posts) was willing to take them all. She wanted the rabbit as company for a pet guinea pig, the hedgehog because she wanted one as a pet, and the hen because she has several already and likes free range eggs.

The rabbit was a bog standard pet rabbit. A no-frills bunny and, to my limited knowledge of rabbits, quite a lively one.
I had to pick up the hedgehog from John Paul who owns JP Pet Supplies on the other side of the river at Fulwell and who delivers large bags of cat litter to Carol. Why anyone would want a hedgehog as a pet, I had no idea, nor why it wasn't just dumped in the wild at an appropriate safe place. But then I hadn't seen it. Because it wasn't just your ordinary British hedgehog most commonly seen squashed on country roads or, recently, ambling up my street in a still-light early evening. No, it was an-
African Pigmy Hedgehog

And not just an ordinary African Pigmy Hedgehog but an albino African Pigmy Hedgehog. Apparently APHs, which come in various colours, are bred as pets. We had this one due to family problems of which I'm aware but am not going to write about. It reminds me of a spiny sea urchin.

Now the hen was rescued by Gary, Carol's ally over at Bunnyhill. He'd found it in a bedraggled state in someone's back garden. And, as with the hedgehog, it didn't look quite how I imagined.
So off I went with the rabbit, the African Pigmy hedgehog, and the hen driving through Durham City and up into the hills beyond to the village of Burnhope.

When I arrived, I was assaulted by her two dogs.

But in a nice way.

Tracy told me the hen wasn't a hen but a cockerel which she hadn't wanted as her others would gang up and kill it. However, as it's a young cockerel she thinks they might be okay. It's also of some fancy breed, the name of which she couldn't quite remember. She put it and the rabbit temporarily in a cat pen. A second after the photo below was taken, the bird pecked the curious rabbit on the top of the head.
And that's all folks.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011


This isn't a particularly cheerful post and there is a photo of an ill rabbit. If you're feeling squeamish, then skip this this post, though there are also some kitten photos as well.

Already booked in at Roker Park was a young female to be neutered which is why I was up and out early. I called in at the Council tip (refuse) on the way there to dispose of a couple of large boxes of rubbish from the new shop. As I approached the entrance I saw a rabbit sitting in the middle so I got out an, assuming it to be a wild one, intended nudging it to hop into the greenery to one side. Only it didn't move and let me pick it up. I now assumed it to be an escaped domestic pet and popped it into a cat carrier I had with me and then off to Carol's. There I picked up the cat to be spayed and also Carol and an elderly cat which, poor thing, was on its last legs and we were going to do the  hardest and kindest thing of all.

At the vets, the female cat was quickly checked and taken through the back to await the operation. The vet took one look at the rabbit and said, "It's a wild rabbit and it has myxomatosis." I said, "Put it to sleep, please."

Late in the afternoon and I was back at the vets and chatting to a young woman who'd come back for the rabbit she'd left that morning. She hadn't heard of myxomatosis so I explained that it was a natural disease that had been modified by man to kill off a plague of rabbits and used to deadly effect in the 1950's in the UK when it had a fatality rate of 95%. That is now down to about 50% here as many of the survivors' descendants inherited or developed an immunity. But that doesn't stop it being a horrible way for an animal to die. The vet told me that it's quite common in this area which, having spoken to Tracy at Burnhope today, I'm taking to be the North East as a whole. Here's a photo I took of it.

At least I was able to end its suffering.

It was painful too watching the other cat being put to sleep. Its veins had shrunk and it took four attempts before the vet found one wide enough to take the syringe. After that it was thankfully just moments.

Back at Carol's I took a few photos of the grey cat's litter and the some of the three litters with their mother/foster-mother.

Coming soon: The Rabbit, The Hedgehog, and The Hen That Wasn't.

Monday, 8 August 2011


After several weeks hard work by lots of people -of whom it would be unfair to single any out but I'm going to anyway: Susan and Mary- our new shop was finally opened a little over half an hour ago as this is being typed. A Sunderland Echo photographer turned up and took a picture of a group of us with me in the centre holding Josie. If it runs, I'll scan it and print it here. Here's what happened.

Cutting the ribbon

Susan and Mary

One of the pies will shortly be my lunch

And lastly, me with Josie and corned beef potato & onion pie

Friday, 5 August 2011


Carole has an ally a mile or so down the road called Gary. No, the road isn't called Gary, the ally is. He lives on a bit of a rough housing estate where he keeps an eye out for animals and currently shares a house with his mother, g/f, and several dogs and cats. Two of the cats, Ron & Reggie, are available for re-homing. I'd called round this morning to pick him and either Ron or Reggie (I'm not sure which) and take him and Ron (or Reggie) to Roker Park vets as Ron (, enough of that joke) has a recurring problem on his lower jaw. The vet said it was quite rare but should be easily fixed with a cortisone (or something like that) injection.  Anyway, here are Ron and Reggie and a big soft Staffy that was in the living room with them and several other cats.

On the way back from the vets, I had to call in at Carols to drop off some extra food I'd bought earlier at Asda and took the opportunity to take some photos of kittens. First off is the grey cat (who's eventually going to go back to her owner) and her kittens, followed by the usual suspects. But first first (and you may want to hide your eyes until its gone as the next picture is of) me and Ugly Betty who is getting a home in two weeks.

Monday, 1 August 2011


(Originally published two minutes earlier on my Freethinking blog.)

Given the subject of this post, the title would have been a clever allusion to a Del Shannon hit of the early 60's but as my name isn't Sue (it's Ian) and I'm not writing about my wife, it isn't clever, it's just pointless. But bear with me, there is a punchline to all this.

I get out of bed just before six (yes, in the morning), see to Josie the cat in the living room I'm fostering, let the cats out who want to be out and in who want to be in (the all-night stop-outs) and they all want feeding. An hour and a half later and it's off to the Raich Carter Leisure Centre where I renew my swimming card for another year (£250.00) and go swimming. From there it's to the post office to post four items I've sold on Amazon which nets me £22.00 after I've paid the postage and then home (to make a couple of phone calls about a cat I'm fostering and keeping in a cage in the garage).

But not for long.

I'm heading over to Castletown on the north side of the river to pick up some donations for the shop. Much to my surprise it's a modern and very tasteful close. It's a surprise because Castletown is one of the most deprived areas of Sunderland. Back the way I came to the other side of Sunderland to drop off the stuff at the shop, cash an Animal Krackers cheque at the bank opposite so I have money to buy cat food for all the cats Carol is looking after for us for the next four weeks. I immediately spend a quarter of this at Asda and while I'm there I empty the donated pet food bin we put in there. Next stop is Morrison's superstore at Doxford Park which is approximately due east of me where there's another bin to empty. And on to the busy A19 heading back to Castletown.

At this point I start playing music in my head and on song it particular. It's one of the greatest pop songs of the 60's which is to say it's one of the greatest pop songs ever. It goes like this.

Duh! Duh! Duh!
Dum! Dum!
Duh! Duh! Duh!
Dum! Dum!

It also features one of the best guitar breaks of any pop songs of the 60's which is to say of all time. It's spiky, man. Indeed this particular version could almost be called proto-grunge. The reason I'm playing it in my head is because a few days I played  an entire album devoted to cover versions, rip-offs, sequels, the original version, and songs which sound similar but pre-date it like Chuck Berry's Havana Moon.

Oh, all right it's The Kingsmen's Louie Louie (pronounced: Loo-ee   Loo-eye) and the CD is Love That Louie which opens with Richard (no relation to Chuck) Berry & The Pharaohs   distinctly West Indian-tinged original. The CD from the brilliant Ace Records itself is a mixed bag, some of it quite good (The Sonics) though never approaching The Kingsmen's truly demented original. Quite ordinary is the Kinks version which is ironic considering that Ray Davies ripped it off for their first two hits. I've got a version by Motorhead which you would expect to be brilliant but just when you expect them to let rip -around the 2.50 mark- they stop. And I'm sure I've heard a good version by Patti Smith though I might be imagining that. But really, the only way to play it is to turn the amp up to 11, scream/slur the lyrics, have a berserk guitar solo, and play it fast and it still won't be as good as The Kingsmen.

So I picked up the donated food from Morrison's at Castletown and went to deliver it. As I arrived a kitten was going out, the first cat/kitten to be homed in nearly three weeks. Good sign. After playing with an assortment of kittens including Ugly Betty, the ugliest kitten in the world, I loaded the van up with about twenty black sacks containing soiled cat bedding and used wood chip cat litter and take it to the council tip. I drive with the windows wide open.
Ugly Betty

I'd just got home when I was summoned to the shop to take some excess stuff to the Barnardo's shop in the city centre.

Eventually I get the afternoon to myself. At 5.30, Susan takes me to the Barnes Hotel carvery for a meal. Other than the meat, it's serve yourself which in my case means piling on the roast potatoes with small token portions of peas and broccoli. I have mine with a pint of Stella Artois. Usually if I'm drinking beer, I'm a real ale or draught Guinness man but with the recent warm weather I've turned back to the pleasures of chilled lager. We're only out an hour and not long after we get back, Nick and Viv (brother and sister in law) call round. I try in vain to convince them that they need Josie the people-loving cat. Before they leave they give me a card and a present.

Oh yes, I did have an alternative title to this post. It's-



As my good friend Barry has just pointed out to me in an email, Runaround Sue was by Dion not Del. Though I take issue with his statement that the Kingsmen copied the arrangement of the Wailers for Louie Louie.