Bury’s Stray Cat Fund has progressed in leaps and bounds from it’s origins in the 70s.
It began over 35 years ago when former nurse Mrs Lewis started taking in cats which had been injured in traffic accidents outside her house or ‘strays’ without known homes. It soon became obvious that there was a serious ‘stray cat’ problem in the area requiring immediate attention. Mrs Lewis, with the aid of friends and support from local press, radio and volunteers (some who are still with us) raised sufficient money to start and organise the nucleus of a sanctuary which went on to gain a well deserved reputation for providing kindness, love and care where no animal was put to sleep unless on professional advice. This struck a chord with the public and our numbers grew as we helped cats whose owners died, fell ill, had separated, or had issues with landlords.
Within 3 years we applied for charitable status which was granted in February 1980 with a constitution and defined aims. This included the very essential policy of neutering, which we are at last beginning to see benefits of as the number of feral colonies has reduced (their care was time consuming in the past).
It could not have been foreseen that during the next 30 years:
- 10,000+ cats/kittens would come into our care.
- 330 kittens would be hand reared (some requiring hourly bottle feeds) by Mrs Lewis.
- 48 admissions would take place during one week.
- An amazing 40 admissions would arrive in one day.
- On a Christmas Eve a 20 mile journey would be made to to collect 10 cats and a rabbit from a house where there was a social problem.
- A sad Christmas day would be spent collecting 2 gorgeous cats whose owner had just died.
- The ring of the front door bell at 2:30am would find a cardboard box on the doorstep containing young kittens
- 2 mums and 12 offspring would be found in a container left at the sanctuary gate of our original premises.
- A lady from Hastings would be happier for us to care for and re-home her 2 cats rather than seek help elsewhere.
We moved to Friar’s Orchard in 2000 and If history is any indication, the future here is not in any doubt. That future would not exist without the very generous legacies we received from Joan Bigmore and others at the same time – their money enabled us to buy our new home. Joan, widowed for many years, had lived within walking distance of our old sanctuary and was devoted to it. The cats adored her and ran in droves to seek her attention when they heard her voice. On Summer evenings she would remain in the sanctuary, sometimes until dusk, alone but the picture of happiness surrounded by her beloved cats and enjoying the pleasure and peace she deserved.
The work has been hard but the reward is the pleasure and happiness to others when they collect their cat or kitten to be part of their family. We in turn have made sure they have been found a suitable home.