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A first for China's cat colonies

Just recently, an incredible event in Beijing gathered together local cat-protection groups from across the country and saw various experts discussing TNR – or trap, neuter, release.

Our Dog and Cat Welfare team worked with Beijing welfare group Lucky Cats to hold the 1st China Cat management Symposium, which saw the attendance of 70 delegates from 30 welfare groups, across 23 Chinese cities.

Over the past few years, what began as a concept that few supported, has mushroomed into a fantastically successful programme where both people and animals benefit. This is a classic example of a win-win situation - sharing our lives, harmoniously, humanely, with community cats, and benefiting from their presence too.

Speakers at the symposium included the Beijing Small Animal Veterinary Association, Lucky Cats, SPCA(HK), Beijing Rong An Vet Clinic and Animals Asia. Topics included general implementation of TNR, veterinary considerations, how to select and work with co-operating veterinary clinics around the city, how to work with volunteers, expert advice on desexing, and running a successful programme in the long term.

At the end of the first day, all delegates were invited to see an example of the "cat colonies" of Beijing. These were established by the Lucky Cats group after it successfully trapped, desexed, vaccinated and ear-tipped the cats and released them back into the community, where volunteers continue to feed them every day.

I had visited these colonies in the winter and was pleasantly surprised by how well they survived in the bitter cold. Their thick fur was freezing to the touch, but they were happy, healthy, nicely socialised – and clearly very well fed.

Now in the March spring sunshine as we all walked around, out these same cats bounced again from their hiding places in the park and eagerly queued up for their twice-daily supply of cat biscuits.

With permission from the local authorities and the park – a beautiful place of cultural pride near the Forbidden City – Lucky Cats and community volunteers have superbly pulled off this much-debated programme of TNR. They are showing even the cynics that this is the most practical and kindest way to control the cat population of our cities, and reduce the risk of disease.

Finally, as we know, cats are never the easiest species to work with - we love them, but they can be touchingly aloof at times and certainly seem to show us exactly who's boss. This thought reminded me of a favourite quote: “Women and cats will do as they please – and men and dogs should relax and get used to the idea.”

A huge congratulations to all who attended and contributed to the symposium, and who are undoubtedly responsible for the growing harmony between people and cats in China.

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