The lady giving mature felines a future
Although we’re a nation of animal lovers, there are still plenty of pets without a loving home – but one Lincolnshire woman is doing her utmost to help care for cats in their twilight years.
Jain Hills set up the Lincolnshire Trust For Cats back in 1999, and more recently has launched a unique venture – a retirement home for elderly felines.
With their own rooms, comfy sofas, a south-facing conservatory and all the creature comforts they could desire, the home in Osgodby currently has around 100 residents.
“When I first started the charity it was quite easy to re-home cats, now there are far more animals than there are homes,” explains Jain, who worked as a stage designer before launching the trust from her farm.
“If someone is looking to home a cat they do not tend to go for an older one – they usually want one that is just a couple of years old, because if they go for an older one they face getting attached to it, and then have to lose it quite quickly. Older cats have higher vets bills too.
“We get people coming here, whose mothers have died, and do not know what to do with the animals, and I just thought, well it’s no good putting them in pens, people feel sorry for them, but they do not offer them a home.
“I already have around 300 cats on the rescue side, so it seemed a good idea to have a place for the older ones.
“It is quite expensive to run so we’re trying to urge people to make provisions in their will for the care of their cat, as it’s these which seemed to get left behind.”
Initially the scheme cost fifty pence a day – £15 a month – for the care of the elderly animals, but after the system was abused by some people cancelling standing orders and leaving Jain to care for their cats, she introduced a one-off charge, currently £850 for lifetime care – including all treatment and any surgery the animal may need.
“We have our own vet, our own staff including a manageress and the site is managed twenty-four hours a day,” explains Jain.
“Because they are older, some of the cats have specific dietary requirements and other health issues, but once they are in the scheme they are looked after here onsite.
“We’re up to around 100 in the retirement home now, and people always ask how come they all get on so well, but it’s all down to the neutral territory.
“We get quite a lot that have led a secluded life with their owner, and no other cats, but they really seem to thrive. All they need is warmth, comfortable sofas and a stress-free life – they probably get more attention here than they would have in their old home,” she adds.
The retirement home started with one sitting room, which has grown to five, while more recently an Edwardian rosewood conservatory has been added, thanks to a £15,000 fundraising campaign.
As well as annual donations and standing orders from trust members, online donations to sponsor individual cats to raise the scheme fees, the trust is also supported by a highly successful charity shop in Market Rasen.
Jain also holds an annual open day each September when up to 1,000 visitors tour the site.
“We’ve got six acres of parking and people can see everything – including the other animals we have on the farm, like our flock of pedigree Lincoln Longwools, our hens and alpacas.
“There’s plenty to see. The look of the place is very important to me too – I think that’s the stage designer part of me coming out.
“We received a grant to tarmac the carpark, and planted some beds all the way around it. “There’s lots of trees too and it all looks really pretty – somewhere I hope people feel happy about leaving their pets.
“And that goes for the inside too – we want it to be comfortable, but it’s also clean. We go for leather and faux leather sofas over fabric ones so there are no smells, and when the animals are ill, they’re much easier to clean.”
When she clocks off, though, Jain admits she’s more of a dog person, with six of her own at home to look after.
“When you work with cats all day, you need to go home to a dog!” she laughs.
“If you run something like this you cannot be too emotional. Of course we care very much about all the cats and their welfare, and we’re very careful about where they go to new homes, but we have to be business-like about it.
“It would be an absolute disaster if we ran out of money – what would happen to all the cats?”
Since launching the scheme Jain is finding people are beginning to make provisions in their wills, and in some instances family members club together to find the necessary funds too.
As well as cats whose owners have died, the retirement scheme also supports elderly animals belonging to those who find themselves moving into sheltered accommodation – where no pets are allowed – or cats belonging to those emigrating and who feel their animals would be unable to cope with a long journey overseas.
* The Trust regularly raises donations online to support cats, who, with no hope of a home, would like to join the retirement scheme. To find out about current fundraising visit the trust’s website – www.lincolnshiretrustforcats.co.uk. Cheques can be sent to The Lincolnshire Trust for Cats, Mill Lane, Osgodby, Lincolnshire LN8 3TB.