Purr-fect! Norfolk rescue centre’s new facilities would be the cat’s whiskers
- Credit: Ian Burt
It started with one kitten from a pet shop in Essex.
But turn the clock forward 30 years and Carol Lai, and a small army of volunteers, now looks after up to 150 cats and kittens at a time at her sanctuary in Norfolk, while trying to find them new homes.
While she has gradually added new pens and chalets to house the ever-increasing numbers of feline residents at Venture Farm Cat Rescue Centre, near Mattishall, the trustees for the charity are hoping 2017 will give the whole operation a new lease of life.
They have applied to Breckland Council to completely replace the cat rescue facilities with purpose built accommodation.
The new block will be easier to maintain and keep clean and provide the cats and kittens with a warm, comfortable home from home while they wait for new owners.
They will also continue to offer facilities for older cats to live as permanent residents.
All the old cat pens, many of which have been in situ for more than 20 years, will then be demolished and the area landscaped.
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Mrs Lai said: 'They have worn well but they have come to the stage where they do need replacing.
'I moved to Norfolk with 70 cats because I needed somewhere remote where they wouldn't disturb the neighbours. I used to foster for the RSPCA but I decided to set up on my own and it has just grown from there. Everything has been funded by donations and grants and we will have to raise more money this year to make it happen.'
Around 18 volunteers help at the centre, cleaning the pens daily and feeding and fussing the cats.
There are usually 60 cats looking for homes but they can take up to 150 and last year suddenly had to take in 40 kittens in a short space of time.
'People need to get their cats neutered or spayed,' said Mrs Lai. 'We are still getting boxes of
cats and kittens just dumped at our gate.
'We don't ask for a donation if people want to bring their cats here to be rehomed, but we don't turn it down if offered.
'It is a lovely feeling when we get new homes for them, although it can be a wrench to say goodbye to them as well.'
Venture Farm also wants to raise awareness of FIV and show that cats with the virus can still be rehomed and make super house pets.
Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) depletes the number of white blood cells, which eventually makes the cat less able to fight off infection.
However, because it is such a slow acting virus, many FIV positive cats can enjoy a normal lifespan with no apparent health problems resulting from the virus.
FIV belongs to the same group as Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) but it can only be transmitted from cat to cat, not to humans or other animals.
It is normally passed between cats when they are involved in a fight and the virus in the saliva of an infected cat is injected directly into the blood stream of the cat it bites.
Carol Lai said they had a separate unit for FIV cats and had recently had more cats with the virus come in to the centre.
'We've got 11 at the moment but it has been up to 20,' she said.
'A lot of vets recommend putting them to sleep but we rehome them quite well as indoor cats.
'People should not be put off by the virus because they can lead normal lives.'
Anyone wanting to donate to the rescue centre can find details at www.venturefarm.co.uk or call Mrs Lai on 01362 850352.
The charity also has a shop in Dereham and is always looking for donations of books, clothes, toys, housewares, cards and gifts. The shop, on Norwich Street, is open Monday to Saturday between 9.30am and 4.30pm.