A clever veterinarian from southern Portugal has turned stray cats' affinity for old washing machines into a project providing shelter, care and urban beautification.
Ana Silva (above) is a veterinarian in Monchique, a town of roughly 6,000 people in southern Portugal's Algarve province. While the town's scenic beauty makes it a popular tourist destination, Monchique suffers from a surfeit of stray cats, many of whom lack safe shelters and basic medical care.
The sorry state of Monchique's cats had long weighed on Silva but a workable solution was elusive. One day, a couple of kittens she was treating discovered a broken washing machine she had left at the end of her yard awaiting collection. The kittens loved playing inside the old machine and relaxing atop its sun-warmed metal cabinet. When Silva put an old blanket inside the machine it sealed the deal, so to speak: “they've never left,” she said.
At that point a light bulb flicked on inside Silva's head – and so the “Aqui Há Gato” (“Here is a Cat”) project was born. Once the local council gave its blessing, Silva was able to enlist the assistance of students from Monchique's schools and a local graffiti artist who brightened up the utilitarian washers.
Clustering the so-called “cat mansions” in groups of two or three, Silva has so far created five unique street shelters at different locations in town. Knowing where the cats like to congregate has made Silva's work easier as well: since Aqui Há Gato began she's been able to spay & neuter about 50 strays while providing urgent medical care to countless others.
Not everyone in Monchique is thrilled with Silva's colorful cat mansions, mind you. “There are people who are less keen on animals,” explained Silva, but she's countered those attitudes by involving Monchique's schools and students. One local school, for example, has adopted a stray that now lives in its own broken washing machine. “It serves a useful teaching purpose,” stated Silva, “so children can see that cats aren't harmful. Some of the parents have even helped decorate the washer.”
Aqui Há Gato has succeeded in other ways as well: publicity generated by Silva's unique campaign has prompted a flood of offers of disused washing machines, which Silva states will receive "a warm welcome” in Monchique. In addition, with stray cats and broken washers being nationwide problems, she hopes to spread the project to the rest of Portugal... and maybe even beyond. Now that's the way to “spin” a good idea! (via Correio da Manhá, Algarve Primeiro, and Algarve Informativo)