Rewarding our donor cats

8 May 2014

In the Faculty of Veterinary Science, we want to do the best for all animals, but sometimes there are special furry friends who need a little extra. Thanks to some hard work, dedication and passion, five very important cats can now enjoy luxury day accommodation and a greatly improved quality of life.

Milo the donor cat
Milo the donor cat

Louise McGregor, a nurse at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital, Sydney, wanted to enrich the lives of these cats, who are blood donors in our clinic. Blood donor cats play a vital role in saving the lives of seriously sick or injured feline patients in our clinic. The donor cats spend three years in residence at the clinic, after which they are given to specially selected homes to live the rest of their lives as pets. Louise saw that although these five boys were much loved and extremely well cared for by our staff, they were housed indoors. She could see that more could be done to enhance the lives of these beautiful cats; it just needed a little planning.

There were two stages in bringing her plans to fruition:

  1. In stage one of the project, Louise and the clinic staff organised a bake sale and raised $700 to provide environmental enrichment for the five cats. With a matching donation by the clinic, a selection of scratch poles, cat gymnasiums and toys were purchased for their indoor accommodation. Still seeing more that could be done, Louise approached the UVTHS Veterinary Director A/Professor Vanessa Barrs, the curator of the blood donor program Dr Sanaa Zaki, and Hospital Manager Mr Keith Merchant with her ideas, and together a plan was hatched to go ahead with stage two.
  2. With the enthusiastic involvement of the hospital and the Development Office of the Faculty, money was raised through a variety of avenues: some generous donations from clients of our clinic, a chequerboard cake bake-off and a naming competition for one of the new blood donors. The students also contributed via VetSoc, the Veterinary student society. Due to this great combined effort, the necessary $9,000 was raised in one year, and in December 2013 the enclosure was built.

The cat enclosure.
The cat enclosure.

The result is a spacious indoor-outdoor cat space with grass, tree branches, a tower where cats can sit up high and observe, and an indoor space for their beds. Once introduced to their new day home the cats showed their approval; they quickly found the sunny and grassy patches and began exploring their surroundings. Their first experience with rain was a delight - after initial hesitation, the boys ran through the rain to feel the new sensation on their backs.

Our donors are in residence on a day on/day off basis, enjoying daily visits and interaction from staff members and students who wander past. The new accommodation is working well for both cats and humans, as people love spending relaxing time out in the company of these cats, and the cats get extra cuddles and play opportunities.

Alphonso the donor cat
Alphonso the donor cat

All five have come alive with the stimulus of the new cat hotel. 'Anchovy', previously a shy boy, has really come out of his shell and revels in the increased human interactions in the 'day spa'. But even the longer term residents have demonstrated brighter eyes and more spirit; they are thriving.

At a morning tea in February to thank the human donors, the cats could be seen basking in the sun, eating grass and appreciating the hard work that had been done to make this project possible. The next stage is a campaign to raise money to provide some heat lamps for winter.

Contact: Vanessa Barrs

Email: 39553e044b380e63332926421b0d233c522535016835552d4a0713