- 22nd March 2017
At TRAKZ, we aim to prevent lost dogs and lost cats. Here at TRAKZ HQ we really care about those animals who have not yet found their forever home and are now awaiting adoption. This week we have visited a very special place – The Willows in South Shields.
The Willows cares for up to 80 cats and what an amazing place to be re-homed from. TRAKZ met founder Maria Harrison and two of her dedicated team of helpers, Julie and Pauline. Maria has a wealth of experience having loved, cared for, adopted, and run animal shelters for over 40 years, but The Willows is one baby she is, rightly, proud of. In South Shields she’s a local celebrity and her love of all animals and her determination to have her cats well cared for shines through. Sadly, Maria explains that her initial experiences of cat care in other cat sanctuaries left a lot to be desired, and, whilst the cats were not uncared for, the standards of care were poor.
Not for a Willow’s cat. Whether injured, tortured, unloved, or lost, Maria and her team are any puss’s guardian angels. From a poor start or simply a blip in a cat’s long life journey, Maria makes sure they are all loved and cared for. Lucky indeed is the cat that is re-homed from the Willow’s.
Maria’s strict pairing critera means she matches you to a moggy for life taking into account not just what’s happening in the here and now, but talking about future lifestyles and choices.
All cats deserve a forever home and Maria is on a mission to get them the best one she can. However, Maria’s experience means she knows cats live for a very long time and that in particular circumstances a loving long term foster home can be an agreeable option. She explains that she does not exclude elderly people or those with specific issues – such as chronic or terminal illness – from applying to adopt a cat. ‘Veteran Cats for Veteran people’ is a fab phrase that she shared with us that sums this up.
Although people with a lower life expectancy such as the elderly are often put off from owning an animal for fear of the cat having to be rehoused after death, many old pusses are looking for a veteran owner to share some tlc with in the here and now. Kittens are not for every cat lover. Maria believes elderly people are often more suited to elderly cats in terms of life stage and circumstance. There may also be the option of fostering in special cases, and after meeting Maria, Pauline and Julie any cat lover with space in their hearts are urged to foster, donate time, food, or precious money.
The Willows Cat Sanctuary is at the heart of the local community. They put their cats first and we were surprised at how many local people bobbed in and out asking about the cats and their wellbeing.
The Willows is a non-profit charity and in order to keep up and running, and pay for her cat’s food and vet bills, Maria opens her doors every Monday for a Cat Café which we thoroughly enjoyed. We learned about the many cats under the care of the Willows and had the opportunity to meet some beautiful pusses as well as having a great afternoon tea.
The Willows also run seasonal events such as Mother’s Day at the Cat Café. Sadly there are only two places left for 2017. As usual it’s been a huge local sell out but we’ll keep you updated with all Willows future news, events and will hopefully be posting pictures of some of their little waifs and strays in need of their forever home.