In Brazil, everyone knows it as “the island of cats”. And this is because on the island of Furtada, 20 minutes by speedboat from the city of Mangaratiba, west of Rio de Janeiro, there are hundreds of cats. Often domestic cats abandoned there to a sad fate since, unlike wild cats, they were unable to find food.
The island’s roughly 250 cats trace their origins to a couple, the only residents around two decades ago, who left, leaving their two cats to do what most creatures, left to fend for themselves on a desert island, he would do. As the cat population grew, people noticed it and some believed they had found a refuge for an urban scourge: unwanted, stray cats.
But not all the locals actually have never forgotten them: over the years fishermen had got into the habit of leaving offal and remains of the catch, while still others brought bowls of water. Many tourists were even brought to the place as a form of attraction.
But that virtuous circle ended with the spread of the coronavirus: confinement no longer allowed people to travel to the island, tourism disappeared and the closure of restaurants serving seafood drastically reduced boat traffic.
For the cats all hell has broken out: some witnesses have told of felines devouring the carcasses of other starved specimens. As soon as the news spread, a solidarity contest started: Jorge de Morais, 58, who works with a local group that saves animals from abuse, got involved with other volunteers to ask for donations to local businesses.
Last April they started installing rudimentary food and water dispensers, made with PVC pipes and now they make weekly trips to supply them: while domestic cats have no problem getting close, wild cats remain hidden and can only be seen in the night. thanks to their eyes that peer into the dark.
However, the problems are not solved: there are no springs on the island and limited drinking water causes frequent kidney problems for cats. But the greatest dangers are the vipers and their poisonous bites. Opportunistic lizards will also attack and injure the kittens. Some cats get injured when boatmen throw them on the rocks.
Volunteers carry cats ashore as needed, for treatment or surgery. They try to find someone to adopt each animal and, if not, bring them back to the island so they can look after others who require medical attention.
Meanwhile, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro signed a law last month that increased the penalty for mistreating cats and dogs from two to five years in prison. A punishment that could at least prevent further abandonment.
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