The Buenos Aires Botanical Garden, officially known in Spanish as the Jardín Botánico Carlos Thays de la Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires, a national monument in Argentina, is home to thousands of different plants and also serves as a home to hundreds of abandoned cats. Sadly these cats are abandoned at the Gardens at a rate of up to 1 a day during the summer, and the majority (if not all) of the cats are unsterilized, meaning without the work of a dedicated team of volunteers, the population of cats living at the garden would skyrocket even higher.
Unfortunately the team of volunteers is small, just over a dozen women who willingly give their time and money to help the abandoned cats. A team of just over a dozen volunteers cares for all these cats, paying for them with their own money, trapping them between jobs (several of them work two or three jobs) and their own personal lives. According to one of the volunteers (who I interviewed through a mutual friend) every month 7-9 of the volunteers pool their resources to buy food to last the cats the entire month and to pay for veterinary care.
“The few resources that we do have are permanently on the brink of giving way under wave after wave of unchecked animal abandonment” she continues “it is not unusual for negligent owners of un-neutered female cats to abandon ten to thirteen kittens at a time.”
When I first heard about the garden cats, I was concerned but not too impressed, after all people all over the world are caring for colonies of feral cats. It’s something some of us feel called to do. Many of us who care for the ferals have tight budgets. The more I learned about the cats and the volunteers who care for them, the more impressed I was with just how desperate the situation is, and how much work these wonderful women put into caring for these cats. The women who care for the Garden cats are facing an uphill battle. Not only do they have to work with an increasing number of abandoned cats, they are working in a country with much larger issues of animal abandonment and animal welfare. They told me there is only one veterinary hospital for the entire country.
“Animal abandonment in Argentina is a serious and complicated problem. There are no government or private agencies that provide city-wide mobile animal care. There are no government shelters […]no city-wide neutering campaigns, no licenses are needed to adopt a pet, there is no enforcement of animal protection laws…. Feral populations of cats and dogs are a usual sight in the city of Buenos Aires, as they are in all of Argentina.”
Added to the obstacles is the hostility they encounter from most of the gardeners at the Garden. The management of the Gardens currently allows the volunteers in for free to care for the cats and security lets them in at night, but they have faced hostile administrations and indifferent administrations that would not work with them. Yet, in the face of all these obstacles, these women have managed to spay approximately 200 cats per year! Fortunately they were also able to find a veterinarian willing to discount her services for them.
They were also able to adopt out around 250 cats last year. Sadly, the numbers of cats at the Gardens never really decreases because of the constant stream of cats being abandoned. Because of this they “are always short on resources (food, medicine, veterinary care, cat carriers, traps, milk substitute, foster homes, kitty litter, etc.) direly needed for the survival of the cats abandoned at the Botanical Gardens.”
That is why a friend of the Gardens has started a ChipIn fundraiser to help purchase two tru-catch traps, a trap divider and veterinary care for the cats. She is returning in April and has, as of this point, raised 51% of the funds needed. Since I have a limited budget of my own, I am hoping to help them out by spreading the word to as many people as possible. If you were moved by this at all, please consider donating a few dollars to help these wonderful, deserving women and the abandoned but not forgotten cats of Jardin Botanica. The ChipIn website has more information and more images of the kitties. You can find a slideshow of the cats too!
I hope to one day go down to Argentina and visit the gardens, the cats and these wonderful women. In the mean time I will help as I can.