Help support this animal shelter’s cats during lockdown

PUBLISHED: 13:00 21 April 2020

Barra loves cuddles. Picture: Downham Market Cats Protection Adoption Centre

Barra loves cuddles. Picture: Downham Market Cats Protection Adoption Centre


How are Norfolk’s animal shelters adapting during the coronavirus isolation? We go behind the scenes at Cats Protection’s Downham Market Adoption Centre.

Toulouse is one of the residents of Downham Market Cats Protection Adoption Centre. Picture: Downham Market Cats Protection Adoption CentreToulouse is one of the residents of Downham Market Cats Protection Adoption Centre. Picture: Downham Market Cats Protection Adoption Centre

Cats Protection’s Downham Market Adoption Centre at Stow Bridge has 60 pens, but during the height of the kitten season they can have more than 100 cats on site. Normally the centre is looked after by 12 paid staff, who work full-time and part-time, with around 80 volunteers bolstering the team. But during the lockdown they have 51 cats to care for and keep entertained, who cannot be rehomed until social distancing rules are relaxed. One of the more inventive answers is castles made out of cardboard boxes.

Adoption centre manager Lindsay Tempest says that they started preparing for a potential lockdown at the beginning of March.

“Locally we began planning by ordering in supplies. The actual lockdown happened fast for us. One day we decided to go to appointments only to reduce contact and the next day we went into full lockdown, closing the centre to adoptions, admissions and visitors. The situation changed fast, but our head office kept us informed every step of the way,” says Lindsay.

“At the centre we are now staff only as all our volunteers have had to stay at home. The cats still need feeding, cleaning and entertaining, so the staff are kept busy throughout the day with no volunteers in. The centre feels very quiet. We’re a busy centre so having only two or three people on site at a time feels strange.

Diana, 7, is an affectionate cat. Picture: Downham Market Cats Protection Adoption CentreDiana, 7, is an affectionate cat. Picture: Downham Market Cats Protection Adoption Centre

“We’ve also adapted to support the NHS by using Marigold-type gloves to clean and fabric instead of plastic aprons so we are not taking PPE from where it’s really needed in our hospitals and care homes, but our people are still protected from germs.

“We have 51 cats that will be staying with us until restrictions are reduced – most are in good health and ready to go to new homes,” continues Linsdsay. “It’s such a shame that they have to stay with us for longer than they would’ve during normal times. Those that are not ready for re-homing are still receiving veterinary care via phone and video calls with our vet.”

Current residents include Cadillac, a 14-year-old who loves a sprinkle of catnip on her toys. And Colin is FIV positive, so cannot go outside, so staff have built him a castle out of cardboard to keep him entertained.

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The adoption centre has also continued to be very active on social media and regularly posts pictures and videos of their feline residents on Instagram @_down_with_the_cats.

“Social media in modern life has become a backbone for getting our message out there, helping cats find new homes and raising support for the cats we care for,” says Lindsay. “My receptionist runs our Instagram page and she loves that it gives her an excuse, not that she needs one, to go into the cattery to spend time with the cats. We help more than 1,000 cats a year at the centre in various ways and without social media that number would be much lower.”

Lindsay says that if anyone finds an injured cat during the lockdown they recommend getting in touch with the RSPCA or a local veterinary practice.

“We don’t have veterinary facilities on site so won’t be able to help in these circumstances. Strays that are in good condition, a good weight and well-groomed are probably not stray and just an owned cat passing through and shouldn’t require intervention,” she says.

They are also grateful for donations to support their work while they can’t raise funds in the traditional way.

“We have had to cancel attendance at several local events this summer,” says Lindsay. “Any plans we had for a summer open day had to go on hold, but we are hoping to still go ahead with a bingo night at the end of this year. A lot of our income from adoptions and retail sales are no longer coming in, so we will have to get inventive with digital fundraising to keep our heads above water.

“We ask our supporters to keep in touch and keep following our social media pages – we like to interact with our supporters and we’ve received some lovely donations from them during the lockdown, such as bin bags, AdBlue for our vans, stationery, cat food and litter and even the odd tin of chocolates! All these things keep us going and most have been donated via our Amazon Wishlist. We are obviously still accepting financial donations and if people want to support us in that way they can via our website.”

To support Cats Protection’s Downham Market Adoption Centre visit

For advice about what to do if you find a stray cat visit

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