Charity's free 'snugs' to help shelter feral cats in Belfast
A big-hearted animal charity is handing out kennels to those who are worried that feral cats may succumb to the wintry weather.
The 7th Heaven Animal Trust, based in Mallusk, says it has just sent a snug - a small kennel - and pet food to a lady in the Cregagh area of Belfast who wants to make sure a pair of feral cats are protected from the elements.
She will place the snug in her garden so the cats no longer have to seek refuge from rain and cold in bushes or under cars.
Stephen McMurray, from the Trust, says the two female cats were abandoned years ago when their owner emigrated to Canada.
"There had been four in total living there for many years. A few locals have been feeding them and trying to keep them safe," he said.
The snug was funded with the help of the library staff at the University of Ulster in Jordanstown.
Stephen said 7th Heaven began its Project Wildcat scheme last year, providing free shelter and pet food to people who are worried about the welfare of feral cats in their area.
Since then, they have provided shelter for 169 cats across Northern Ireland, using everything from snugs to playhouses and even bigger sheds that people place in their gardens to provide a refuge for wandering moggies.
"We've supplied 31 small snugs, four larger kennels, two playhouses and two 6x8 sheds," Mr McMurray said.
The Trust was set up some years ago by a group of friends and is based at the Mallusk home of Mr McMurray and his wife Heather.
The couple re-home cats, dogs, rabbits and ferals and they have also set up a pet food bank scheme, which provides help to pet owners who are in financial difficulties.
Mr McMurray said it is less stressful to the animals to support them in a home setting than to re-home them because they cost too much. Pet food is donated by generous shoppers in Sainsbury's at Forestside and Carrickfergus and Jollye's in Newtownabbey.
The charity has paid for the shelters using donations.
"People feel sorry for the animals and phone us up," Mr McMurray said.
"These were a couple of cats that a person had left behind years before and they had turned feral, living round the streets and sleeping under cars.
"One woman had phoned us to ask for a shelter that they could go into when it's bad out.
"We have very low overheads because we re-home animals from our home."