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 All our animals that find homes in Europe have contracts with new owners and are protected by animals societies in Turkey and societies in all our designated countries.

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Rescue & Re-home

I had no idea of founding a Cat Shelter as I had dogs all my life. I even brought my dog to Turkey. Ten years ago during the night I found a stranded kitten, a tiny black and white thing. He was only 4 days old. I had no idea if he would live or die because I had no idea what to do. My experience was only with dogs. So I called him Hayat which means "life" in Turkish. I thought if he had a lucky name, it will bring him luck also and give him a chance in "life".

The real founder of our cat shelter is Hayat, who is now a six year old bossy, anti-social, independent, single minded but handsome moggy. Within 24 hours I was presented with his sister Princess who only lived 4 years. So with the plastic bag filled with milk I started feeding them. They survived and grew into happy healthy cats. During the winter, when money was scarce, the cheapest form of food was fish. But being a "cat person" now and the fish being so cheap, I used to buy an extra kilo and feed the street cats on my way home. This put me into contact with the street situation concerning the cats. Every now and again while doing my rounds on my bicycle feeding the cats, I would find a sick cat and take it home.

Within six months I had 10 cats, non-castrated. I was lucky there were only three females... And they only had a few kittens which I found the homes for. I had made friends with a local veterinary who made the neutering of the females for half price. Veterinary fees was my biggest problem. I sent for books from England, and started studying about cats. I had so much to learn. I tried to keep my numbers at ten, mainly because I lived in rented accommodation. And living in Turkey, people do not appreciate animals in houses. But within another year I was up to 22 cats. And facing eviction.. My situation was becoming critical. Every year I had to change my apartments because they would not let me stay with all the cats. Yet I had no power to turn my back on other cats who needed my help. So every six or twelve months I had to pack up and move, always finding a place by the skin of my teeth. Just in time to be saved from being taken to courts and possibly finding myself homeless.

It was during this time that I heard about German veterinaries visiting Lidya hotel. This is the oldest hotel in Marmaris and known for its cats. There are usually about 30 cats sharing the hotel with the tourists and they have a small cat feeding place in Armutalan, a suburb of Marmaris, for all the cats that were dumped in the gardens of the Lidya hotel. This being on average about 10-15 cats a week. The whole of Marmaris was using the Lidya as a dumping ground for their unwanted cats. So the owner created a feeding place on one of his properties in Armutalan and sent food every day. Living quite close to the place, I was curious so I looked and found most of the cats in need of veterinary care. They had the food but they didn't have the care. So unknown to the Lidya at this time, I started taking care of them and giving simple treatments to the cats that I could catch. Cleaning the place and giving love and attention to those cats. The vets apparently came every spring and autumn to hold a two-week castration campaign for street cats. This was the perfect opportunity for me to get my cats castrated all at the same time.

Meeting the vets
I arrived to Lidya hotel and was introduced to Karin Potter who was the organizer. She welcomed me and was more than happy to help with my cats. For me this was a fantastic opportunity to learn about cats first hand. In return for operating my cats, I offered my services for two weeks going around the streets cat catching. The veterinaries were wonderful, they never tired of my continual questions! During my second week, I spent most of my time in the operating room, watching, asking questions. And they showed me how to give injections and let me do all the post operative injections for over 250 cats. So I had plenty of practice in those
weeks. Our relationship bonded during the last second week. When they left, they left me medicines for most simple ailments. Also antibiotics, so that I can give my injections for cat flue, abscesses and wounds. With the promise of seeing each other again next spring they left for Germany and I continued my work with so much more knowledge than 2 weeks ago. It was a turning point for me.

Karin keeps coming every year because of her love for Marmaris and the cats. And she realized that she found somebody in Marmaris that her veterinaries could teach to do their work for them together with the Marmaris vets.

During the campaigns I made a good contact with the Lidya owners, mostly the daughter and the son. In time they learned that I was taking care of the cats in Armutalan as well as my own 35 cats and 4 dogs. And they started coming to me with problem of their cats. Occasionally the daughter would ask me to take a cat with special needs to my home, our relationship started growing but as I said before my housing situation was becoming unbearable. I knew I had to move again in 4 months and knew I had no chance in finding another house. I really knew this was the time I was going to be homeless, this was 1996. The next four months all my worries were for the cats and the dogs, what would happen to them if we became homeless. These last four months were the worst in my life. Having so many animals dependent on me, it was a terrible responsibility. In the last week, I made my decision, I would take my cats to the Lidya cat feeding place and I would also stay there.

I was lucky I had an unused tent from England. For the next six months I lived in that tent at the cat place. In a way, it was the best place we lived: the cats were happier than me because they were free instead of being shut away in a house, hidden from neighbours and angry landlords. I was camping from April until late November. I could have stayed any time with friends without the cats. But I could not bear to leave them for any length of time, I had to be close by. While I was camping, plans were going ahead for a new cat shelter, 11 km outside of Marmaris (Hurray! No neighbours!!) the Lidya were funding and building this shelter.

They wanted it to be also a shelter for me to save me from the streets too!!! It was ready in January 1999, as a New Year present for me and the cats! Then the biggest shock came, when we moved the cats. It was the only time possible to actually count the cats, as they were all transported in the cat boxes, provided by the German group. ONE HUNDRED AND EIGHTY NINE CATS!!! A few weeks later, twenty odd cats came from the Lidya, putting on numbers up to two hundred! It was a very stressful move for myself and for the cats, but at the same time it was exciting! This move meant security, safety and a future for the cats and myself! There was no way I would have to leave Turkey and leave my cats behind to the unknown.

The New Cat Shelter
The last four years with the support from the German veterinaries I have become 75 per cent independent from veterinary fees. All simple work I carry out myself. The rest I get free help from Marmaris veterinaries because I provide them with all medicines and materials from Karin. Without the support from Karin and the German veterinaries, the Lidya hotel and the Lidya family who knows what would have happened to the cats of Marmaris... Now we are becoming famous, tourists have started to visit us, and of course help with donations which is greatly needed and appreciated. The Lidya provide fresh chicken and macaroni every day which is of course life saving but not the perfect balanced diet for the cats. All money found is used mainly for dry cat food with the vitamins and help to fight against teeth problems found in cats completely fed on soft food. I have found the work load overwhelming as I work alone. Over 200 cats, 12 rooms, cleaning, cooking, feeding, giving treatment, taking care of singular cats with special needs, continuing with work like building climbing frames, planting trees, sun shelters, and many other necessary jobs for the comfort of the cats. I am hoping to find cat lovers abroad who would volunteer for a working holiday and come and be a part of our cat shelter for a short time.

Being a member of the Cats' Protection League, I model my work on their principles: to rescue, to re-house free of charge, to castrate, and to teach people how to be a better owner.

Millennium Update
January 20, 2000 brought us to the end of our first year at the Cat Shelter.
The first four months were the worst as all of the 200 cats were locked inside due to the perimeter fence being unfinished. The swess especially for the cats was at times unbearable, but we survived with a few fights and some hair loss, mine included!!

However spring came and so did some help. A dutch friend Jan who lives part of the year in Marmaris with his wife Mijntja helped with the fencing and at last the cats were free.

At this time Karin came with her vets from Germany and the castrations were brought up to date. Her friends Franz and Ilona helped with new shelves to the outside of the building (wood donated by the Forestry Commission) Also another section of the garden was grassed and some young trees planted. The trees also dontated by a German animal friend.

All through the summer occasional tourists found us and helped with small donations. Hopefully more and more visitors will learn of our existence and pay us a welcome visit.

By the time Karin came again in October, things were slowly starting to take shape. We also had a nice donation of dry food. So until the end of February this year the cats had plenty of good food.
We now have around 240-250 cats so we have managed to keep the numbers reasonably under control due to castrations of course but also due to some cats re-homed and some to Germany and Holland.
Through the Internet new friends have been found Margot and Anke from Holland, Irene from Finland who would like to come as a volunteer. I am waiting to hear from all animal lovers.
Hopefully with your help the Cat Shelter can be finished this summer. I have started a new cat pen outside: it has its roof, new shelves are needed also it needs to be completely closed with wood frames and mosquitoe netting. Climbing frames are needed all around the garden as it will be a few years before the young trees are strong enough to take the weight of some of my "fatties"
As far as the shelter is concerned everything is promising and positive.

FACT 1. The land donated to the Lidya family for the cats was land in a green belt (area).
FACT 2. Half of the cat house was carelessly built on the neighbours' land.
FACT 3. The Lidya were approached 1 and a half year ago and told of this fact.
FACT 4. Nothing was done.
FACT 5. The neighbours took us to court... we lost!
FACT 6. All through this I was told not to worry, that the perimeter would be brought in a little.
FACT 7. A few weeks ago I learned the whole of the cat house was to be demolished. I was still told not to worry, that something would be done.
FACT 8. The neighbours came last week and told me that I had 4 days to move... otherwise...
FACT 9. Due to the economic crisis in Turkey the Lidya cannot find a second cat shelter. It is too much for anyone to expect. I am on my own this time.

It was really a shock to learn that the Cat Shelter had been built mostly on the neighbour's land. Not being the supposed owner of this land, I knew very little until a few months ago and even then had to leave everything for them to sort out.
It was sorted out in court unfortunately, the result being a destruction order against the cat shelter. Even then I could not find out how much land we had to give back. It seems that 85 % has to be returned this means the garden which has now trees, grass and flowers, the house, which includes 4 cat rooms, clinic, mother and baby sick room, my own quarters and outside shelving, in other words everything, only the dog pound would remain... everything! The wad rang in my head for days I really could not function.
Marmaris councils first reply to our request for help was that the shelter came under the jurisdiction of Mugla and yet all the cats here are from the streets of Marmaris.
Reuters TV came to do a news flash, but I haven't heard if anyone has seen the program in Europe yet. My last hope was the Internet, and Bettina in Berlin who used to live here in Marmaris and help with the cats and dogs.

The response from Germany and the internet has been fantastic! All of a sudden I wasn't alone which being totally responsible for so many animals is one of the worst feelings in the world. The past weeks I have been crying with despair, but the past few days, I have been crying with so much emotion from the warmth and caring from people all around the world. So armed with faxes and emails, the Turkish national newspaper Hurriyet and Karin Potter the organizers of our German Castration Campaign we went to see the Mayor of Marmaris. Just two days before the bulldozers were due to arrive. By the end of the meeting and a phone call to the governor of Marmaris (Kaymakam) we had a 3 month reprieve. The story was repeated in the Hurriyet over 2 days. It is still only a start, time to try and find the 30,000 GBP, needed for a new cats shelter. I am just so glad that we have the time and its all thanks to you people out there! The amount includes buying the land, securing the area and the wooden cat pens (10) the main house / quarantine and clinic, a dog campground, with kennels.

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