Catalan cat shelter gets smart to help COVID orphans


A street-born cat is seen on a slide inside of El Jardinet dels Gats (Cats' Garden), which is a cat shelter in the Raval district, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Barcelona, Spain October 1, 2020. Picture taken October 1, 2020. REUTERS/Nacho Doce

BARCELONA (Reuters) - Overflowing with aging cats who lost their owners to the COVID-19 pandemic, Barcelona's cat sanctuary El Jardinet dels Gats has launched an online campaign to get them adopted.

As cats of all colours, shapes and sizes basked in autumn sunshine in the courtyard, shelter owner Alex Salvador was shooting an advertisement for "Whatever you can afford" donations on a smartphone, broadcast live on Instagram.

"The COVID situation has brought us older cats, cats in quite severe physical states, from elderly people who had not taken them to the vet for a long time, so the costs are very high," the 43-year-old Salvador told Reuters.

The coronavirus pandemic forced the cancellation of onsite fundraising events and cut the incomes of existing donors, but the online drive has been a success, Salvador said, a restyled World War Two "We Can do It" poster with a cat in overalls hanging behind her.

"We have adapted everything, the interviews for the adoptions, the interviews for the foster homes, the interviews for volunteers," said Salvador, whose late parents founded Jardinet 12 years ago.

The epidemic has also brought in new volunteers.

"Since I'm working from home, I work remotely in sales, I need to get out a little bit. Coming here to Jardinets helps a lot," said Andreas Schaedler, 33, a Swiss who lives in Barcelona.

Some cats also like to help with the integration process, like four-year-old street-born Zipi who shows new arrivals how to respond to stroking and offers of food.

"He has become the king of Jardinet, we are all in love with him," Salvador said.

(Reporting by Nacho Doce, writing by Andrei Khalip, Editing by Ingrid Melander and Ed Osmond)

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