Tianjin Cat Rescue
Nov.28th, night, International Fund for Animal Welfare(IFAW) colleagues and I received a message about 700 cats found in Tianjin city, in cages and ready to be sold as meat. We learned that at first, people feeding cats in the community saw a few cats locked in caged in an abandoned house. They called Cats Hope, a local cat rescue group. When Cats Hope managed to open the door, they were shocked to find that there were 35 battery cages of cats. They estimated there would be 700 ~800 cats. It is suspected that these cats would be sold as meat to the south by cat dealers. After hours of confrontation with cat dealers, rescuers were able to finally move the cats into an abandoned elementary school, as a temporary shelter.
Judging from the behaviors of these cats, most of the cats are pets. They were probably let outdoor and got trapped by cat dealers. IFAW helped contacting China Daily, one of the biggest national newspapers, to make a story about the cats and a local newspaper also made a report. 60+cats were soon reclaimed by heartbroken owners.
The IFAW team went to Tianjin city on Nov. 30th, Kati, the vet consultant, Jeff, the communications manager, and I, the companion animal project coordinator. Two TV-crew people joined us to document this emergency relief effort. We arrived at about 9am and learned from Cats Hope that the total number of cats rescued is 726. Three had already died of disease and another 3 escaped. Cats Hope is a brand new group and have little experience dealing with such a large number of animals but we all think they did pretty well. Our vet Kati conducted a brief health examination of the cats and, overall, most cats seemed healthy and social. Very few cats, less than 20, had eye discharges and reacted in a nervous manner.
As the school where they were holding them was situated close to people’s homes, the Police said they received complaints. Cats Hope soon found a new facility in the countryside of Tianjin and moved all the cats there. During the move, all cages were fastened so that no cats could escape, labeled so that records wouldn’t get lost; volunteers carried cages onto trucks, and strapped them down to avoid their displacement. We were pleasantly impressed by their efficiency during the move. Based on the local conditions, we made some practical suggestions on shelter management, like the use of special working clothes and gloves in the quarantine area to avoid cross infection and separating the cats in different rooms with a chemical tray at the each door for disinfection to avoid disease outbreaks.
It’s already been 9 days since the visit. We have maintained daily contact with Cats Hope, and still try to create media attention. We are also coordinating with other rescue groups to bring more help and attention to these displaced cats. Up to date, 440 cats are separated into two facilities where volunteers provide care. All in all 40 cats are staying in foster homes, and more than 60 have been happily reclaimed by their owners. Around 150 have been adopted, among which 54 were given to Luckycats, one of IFAW’s partners in Beijing.
Thinking about these 726 cats gives me mixed feelings: they are very lucky to have been rescued, and luckily many of them are already adopted, some even made their way back to home; but the remaining 440 cats still face many difficulties: daily care-taking, vaccination, spay/neuter, adoption promotion… and incidents like this happen a lot in China, as there are no animal welfare laws in place, and the current laws have a lot of loopholes. IFAW has been advocating for an Animal Welfare Law which recently got drafted for the very first time, but more time and effort is needed for the law to be in place and effective. On a daily basis we see animals in suffering and we fight back, but we alone can’t solve the problem. Stopping the cruelty towards animals requires the joint effort of all of society.