In rural France, the presence of stray cats napping in the sun is an integral part of the image of village life – as evocative as a battered 2CV, a game of boules, and an apéro at a local bar.
The reality can be much harsher – if a cat has nine lives, it also has the scary ability to reproduce at an alarming rate – and a burgeoning feline population becomes a plague. Catching some of the cats to be put to sleep is not a practical solution, as their remaining brethren will continue to multiply apace.
The Alpes-Maritimes (06) is fortunate enough to have a saviour in Leslie Frasier, who has lived in France for many years, and advocates the capture and sterilisation of strays – these lucky animals may then be placed in kind homes, or released back into their territory, where they keep an effective guard against fertile incomers. Even older or antisocial cats, have their paradise, in two granges near Saint Etienne de Tinée, where they can live independently – but still be fed and keep warm and dry.
Leslie’s Association (www.leschatsdumercantour.com) has treated over 2000 cats since its creation back in 2006. Leslie’s work takes her all over the Alpes-Maritimes to deal with all sorts of cases – from nuisance village strays, to pets having lost their owners, and hardship cases. The task is enormous, and mightily expensive – to capture/sterilise/microchip/treat just one cat can cost up to €150 – yes just one!
After a recent visit to Leslie, I can assure you that her phone NEVER stops – kind-hearted, immensely patient, and with a veterinary background. She is the local animal expert and not just for cats………. her own beautiful home is surrounded by fields…. housing – donkeys , a mule and a pony.
Leslie works tirelessly – and holds down a job! – supported by a band of volunteers who fund raise, serve as temporary Familles d’Accueil, and offer their time. There is some support from local communities but certainly not enough.
With time and/or money to spare, animal lovers can easily lend a hand – with admin, event manning, sponsoring an animal (donations are tax deductible!) if you don’t have the possibility of owning one yourself, offering a temporary foster home, passing on your unwanted towels……..
Have a look at the website and be inspired…. even a small gesture makes a big difference.
Consider too, having your own animals spayed, and, if looking to adopt a cat – don’t spend hundreds on a spoilt pedigree – take in a kitten, or an older cat that really needs a home and keep it for life!
A fellow animal lover – Tania Burrows is also active in the Alpes-Maritimes – rescuing and homing dogs and cats.