A cat-rehoming centre in Newcastle has put out an odd plea for volunteers that should have people falling over themselves to sign up for: it needs kitten cuddlers.
The Westgate Ark centre has been set up to help rehome rescued cats and kittens, many of which are feral or semi-feral.
Paul Black, 55, who set the centre, told The Independent: “We rescue a lot of pregnant cats and semi-feral kittens and they all need handling so that they’re nice and used to people, which makes them much more suitable for homes.”
Kittens have a period between three and seven weeks when they need to be handled, which is called “socialisation,” and is crucial to a cat’s development. It is the period when they get used to people, other animals and everyday sights and sounds.
“If you miss that window of opportunity and they’re not exposed to people extensively by that age then they become feral or semi-feral, and the older they become the harder it is to domesticate them,” Mr Black said.
The centre has put out the call for “cat cuddlers” on its site to help the kittens it is housing during their socialisation process, and to help with the older cats that are feral or semi-feral, but which still need getting used to being around people if they are going to be rehomed.
“We have some wonderful volunteers, but we don’t have enough,” Mr Black said, adding that many of his volunteers work full time and can only help out at certain times of the day.
Mr Black set up the centre as a social enterprise in April and the operation is funded by donations, and by money raised through car boot sales and sponsored events.
The number of cats being looked after and rehomed varies widely from week to week; at the moment the centre is looking after 15 cats, but “a few weeks ago it was more than double that,” he said.
Mr Black is hoping to expand the clinic into a non-profit neutering clinic for cats and dogs in the future, but that until the centre has enough money to fund the operation, it will focus on rehoming cats.