Nestled away in Nantmel, Powys, is mother and daughter Karen Smy and Lauren Sheldrick. Inside their unsuspecting family home are over 70 cats, some of which are looking to be re-homed.
Since 2017, Karen’s Cat Community have been rescuing in the area. What started as a way to help locals with advice soon turned into a place where people dropped off pets they could no longer look after. They are a small, not yet registered non-profit rescue team, who progressed to trap, neuter, release and re-home kittens in the area.
"We have been gradually increasing in size since 2021. Over the past two years, we have grown to an overwhelming size and 2023 has been the hardest year yet." Karen says. "We have over 70 cats in our care and we are now struggling along with all other rescues after Covid and the cost-of-living crisis. People either cannot afford to neuter their cats, are not aware of the neutering schemes larger charities provide, or are not educated on how quickly cats can reproduce."
There are cats in every room of the house, and such is the reputation of Karen's Cat Community that they have built a following online. "We have 18 resident cats who have been adopted by us and live in the main cat room. We have always been a multi-cat family but sadly only 3 of the original cats that moved to Wales remain. The rest we have rescued and adopted during our time in Wales.
"We have 5 sanctuary cats. Our sanctuary cats are cats with medical and behavioural problems who stay with us and followers help us to cover their medical needs through sponsorship. These cats require specialist homes and care, such as Elan, found dumped in the Elan Valley, who has no back paws or tail. Thelma, an owner surrender, who is a tripod. And Maxwell, who had his septic leg amputated earlier this year at only 8 weeks old. All funds for the amputation were raised by our followers and supporters."
The support has been amazing for the mother-daughter duo, who are currently raising funds for one of their cats, Jess, a ginger cat with a piece of her skull in her nasal cavity. "We have been quoted £2,000 for a biopsy and £4,000 for the surgery she may need." They have started a Just Giving page, in the hopes of raising the appropriate amount to help with surgery.
Some of the cats in their care are ready for adoption, but they are facing challenges. Looking after a large number of cats means rising costs, and with people not coming to adopt, their finances aren't in good shape. "We have very little interest in our cats and kittens at the moment. This means we are struggling to cover costs, as adoption fees usually help us with this. To feed 76 cats 3 times a day on Whiskas, the cheapest food we use, costs £82.50. We use around 12 bags of litter a day which roughly works out to be £26.28 using Tesco litter. On average, we spend around £108.78 a day.
"However, this does not factor in specialist food. Some of our cats require a specialist diet. This food can be incredibly pricey. The kittens are also on higher quality food, so they have the best start to life. We still need to castrate 20 male cats at roughly £45 per castrate and 18 females at £78. We also double vaccinate all of our cats and kittens which is £62.40 per cat. We are still looking at paying out a £3,712.80 minimum in veterinary bills to cover this."
Despite the number of cats, each one is looked after appropriately. "We currently have 34 kittens and 10 adult cats who are looking for their forever homes. This has tripled since last year when we only had 13 kittens to rehome. They are segregated into 6 rooms of the house with a couple of bathrooms being used as quarantine areas. We only start to mix kittens and cats once they have all been quarantined, treated for fleas and worms and blood checked for FIV/FeLV. Most of the time they stay in their family units until they are re-homed."
But now, Karen and Lauren have to put their foot down. "We separate them the best we can to avoid overcrowding but this year has pushed us to our limit. We have had to start to say no. However, this does not stop people from ringing or contacting us at least twice a day about owner surrenders and abandoned kittens."
Now, they are looking to register as a charity, which in turn will open their doors for expansion. "Once we are a registered charity, we will be looking at funding the conversion of our summer house into a quarantine area and are currently working on catios with indoor heated areas for feral and semi-feral cats. This has been partially financed by Powys Animal Welfare.
"Our increase in size shows the need for rescues in this area. There are many small cat and animal rescues scattered around but we are still not covering the number of animals who need our help in the Powys area." Karen said. "Since opening in 2017 we have successfully helped 230 cats, this year alone we have helped 70 cats and kittens as only 2 people. Powys is a large county with very little help from larger rescues as they do not cover much of the area. As we register to become a charity, we aim to apply for funding to help with building enclosures. We are working on our governing documents and applying as soon as possible. We will also be moving our pop-up shop to a more permanent base in September."
Those who are looking for a cat are strongly advised to adopt. If you are interested in adopting from Karen's Cat Community, email them at [email protected] to start the adoption process. "We ask people to complete an adoption form so we can best match a cat with their new family. If potential new families rent their property, we ask for proof of permission from the landlord. We then complete a home check; this can be done virtually if it is long distance. We then invite people to meet the cats, again, this can be done online. Once everything is confirmed we ask for the complete adoption fee of £125 per kitten and £150 per cat in order to reserve any cat or kitten.
"Finally, we arrange a rehoming day, where we bring the cat to their new home. We have just travelled to Newcastle to complete a re-home, which was our longest yet at 5 hours."