Nine Lives for Czech Cats

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In this week's Talking Point Jan Velinger covers the First Nation-wide Cat Adoption Exhibition aimed at trying to find homes for almost 60 abandoned cats. Operating under one umbrella group, the recently-formed Association for Animals in Need, a group of shelters from across the country pooled their resources to put together the one-day exhibit, which took place at Prague's Lucerna Palace's Marble Hall (a space normally reserved for ball room dancing lessons!) on Sunday. Several exhibition sponsors were on site to give happy new owners the chance to buy cat food and squeaky toys for their newly adopted cats, and, as Jan found out, the exhibition was an overwhelming success...

Lately, if you have had the opportunity of visiting the Prague Castle in the early evening, the chances are you've seen them: small groups of cats moving around the Castle's wooded green valley known as the Stag Moat, cats apparently abandoned, some of them growing up wild. And while their number is not dramatic, it contrasts the alarming number of abandoned cats in Prague as a whole: conservative estimates indicate there are some 30,000 abandoned cats in Prague alone. Not surprisingly, it is impossible to get a definite number... Many animal shelters, both public and private, are swamped in the spring and summer seasons, stocked full of animals forgotten by their owners, and it becomes a question of what to do.

Last Sunday, for the price of a donated tin of cat food, Prague residents and visitors were able to visit the First Nation-wide Cat Adoption Exhibition, put together by Prague's Association for Animals in Need. The association acted as an umbrella for 7 or 8 animal shelters from all over the Czech Republic. The operation, although partially funded by sponsors, was very much grass-roots, coming down to a core group of ten individuals or so doing everything from taking care of some cats at their own homes, to preparing posters advertising animals for adoption. They also provided information and carried the sixty-odd cages and boxes, with furry companions, up to Lucerna Palace in the centre of Prague, where the exhibition was held. For one day what normally serves as a classy ball-room for dancing lessons, was taken over by cats of all breeds and colours, and what's more, there were so many interested visitors so early on, it became clear that many of the cats had a good chance for adoption by the end of the day. I was able to speak with a part-time volunteer for the Association for Animals in Need Jaroslava Hobstova, who introduced me to some of the felines, as well as to some of the problems of animal care. Well, as Sunday evening drew near, and the crowds at the exhibition began to thin-out, it was clear that the First Nation-wide Cat Adoption Exhibition had been an enormous success - out of 52 cats present 44 had been adopted, with the all necessary protocol, including vaccinations. The result exceeded the organisers' greatest expectations, and certainly set a positive example for next year. Clearly there is a high demand for pets, and a high sense of responsibility among animal lovers, of whom there were over a thousand on Sunday to view the cats at the show. If you count it up, a lot of donated tins of cat-food in support for animals shelters and animal care . It is no wonder, by the end of the day, that the organisers, including Jaroslava Hobstova, were happy with their work, and happier still for the animals they had helped.