Heartbreaking scenes that made a Stockport teacher rescue 36 cats

Alice Lefebvre

MANCHESTER EVENING NEWS – Wherever you go, there are likely to be stray cats on the streets – from European holiday destinations like Spain and Bulgaria to right here in Manchester.

But while it is a sad situation that feral felines are all too often left to fend for themselves, the country they live in will often dictate their fate.

In Manchester, groups like the Curry Mile Kitties – set up by local residents to keep colonies safe – help to lessen the chance of overpopulation thanks to their trap, neuter, return programme, which is run in conjunction with Cats Protection.

But in other countries our furry friends are not always as lucky.

Cat-lover Jenny Celebi, from Marple, moved to Qatar 10 years ago to take up a teaching position.

But although she loved her job, she was shocked about the amount of stray animals that roamed the streets where she lived. While dogs factored into that total, it was the sheer number of cats that Jenny couldn’t get her head around – and the injuries they often displayed broke her heart.

So much so, she began to take care of the colonies – nursing those that were ill and injured and then attempting to rehome those that were suitable. The result of her hard work is incredible.

She has nursed a number of kitties from the brink of death back to full health, and formed a bond with many of them – in particular, Millie, the first one she rescued in a car park under her apartment building nine years ago.

“I couldn’t believe how many animals were dumped and left to die. It’s not just cats – dogs are too. But the cat problem is much worse,” Jenny told the Manchester Evening News.

“I got into helping out with trapping and neutering the strays because I started seeing the extent of how bad it was.

“Some of the cats are disabled – one doesn’t have a tail and is incontinent, another has one eye, another has brain damage. It’s heartbreaking.

“There are a few shelters open which are run by expats where a lot of rehoming is done, but it just isn’t enough to keep them all safe.”

Of the cats she helped, Poppy was starving and dirty with matted fur until Jenny intervened – and now she is thriving.

Elsewhere, black cats Ziggy and Zorro had a sorry start to their lives – the scrawny pair were weeks old when Jenny rescued them, and now their silky coats are a picture of health.

Many of the cats had infections, such as Sophie and Lizzy, who could barely open their eyes due to the crusty mess that congealed on their eyelids.

And one-eyed Hope had little of that in his own life until Jenny took him in. He also had a broken jaw and struggled to eat – but incredibly he has recovered and now lives in Florida.

Smoky was in such a state when she was found, she had to be brought back to life by Jenny’s friend before being nursed back to health and then getting a forever home in South Africa.

These are just some of the kitties she has saved – so when Jenny’s time came to return to the United Kingdom (UK), she couldn’t leave the rest behind.

She is currently in the process of flying 36 of them over to the UK so that they can be safe from the dangerous streets.

“There are virtually no suitable places for them in Qatar, which is why I have brought so many back,” she explained.

“I couldn’t leave them sick on the street and couldn’t leave them when I came home.”

Jenny calculates that over the last decade she has spent close to GBP100,000 on looking after the colonies, as well as on the cost of shipping the 36 cats over here.

She explained, “I had free accommodation with my job and the wages over there are good, so I just spent every penny I had left over to make sure that the cats were ok. In fact I am still sending money over there now.

“I first moved to Qatar in 2010 to do teaching but it took me a year before I realised just how bad the problem is there.

“I had seen cats hanging around but didn’t think much of it, after all you get that when you go on holiday to Europe.

“But then I began to see the extent of it, so when a friend asked me to feed some cats in the car park on my old apartment complex, I had to do it.

“I met this little starving kitten, who I named Millie, and just had to take her in – she was so helpless and in need of love. That was just the start.”

She added, “It wasn’t just me – there were a number of people who all helped with trapping and neutering the cats. A friend of mine went back to the Philippines with 11 of them.

“We managed to rehome some, but the ones I have brought to the UK are left from the colonies I have been feeding and looking after over the years.”

Planning her return home, Jenny put her house in Marple on sale to use the proceeds to buy a house in Scotland, with more land, so that she can look after the cats herself.

“I am taking them all in for now, but will look to rehouse some of them if the right owners come along,” she said.

Coronavirus lockdown put a spanner in the works when the sale of her house fell through in March, just after she returned to the UK.

Thankfully she was able to find a new buyer, and she is now waiting for the house in Scotland to complete, and the last of the felines to be flown over, before making her way to her new home.

“I have flown 30 here so far – although one got put in quarantine down near Heathrow because they can’t find her microchip,” she explained. “The other six will be coming in October.

“Eight of them are at Mad Catters Sanctuary in Wales – my friend Melda Ozel is looking after them while I wait for the house sale. The others are with one of my sons.

“My house completes later this month so I am currently sleeping on the floor in an empty house together with 11 of the cats.”

Jenny admits that her actions have prompted criticism from some, but she is determined to give the kitties the life they deserve.

She said, “I have had some criticism for what I am doing – some people say that we have enough of a problem with strays over here.

“But there is nothing compared to the horrendous conditions that they have over there – the abuse, sickness, it is awful.”

“There is a lot of breeding and importing of exotic animals in Qatar, but there is no regulation”, Jenny added. “Cats often get bought because they look cute as kittens but then owners get bored and they end up on the street.

“There are loads of Russian Blues all with matted fur and various injuries, it’s awful. Then the likes of us are left to mop up the casualties.”