When walking around the streets of the capital one cannot help but notice how many cats there are around. Most of them are pets and not strays, many wear collars and bells and are well groomed.
But not all cats here are that lucky. There are areas in every town in Iceland were stray cats are common. Most of them have been abandoned or kicked out of their homes by their “owners”.
Still, Iceland does not have a problem with packs of wild cats like some other European countries. That's an entirely different thing.
However, there are many cats in need, no doubt about that.
Local cat lovers don't sit back and do nothing—there are two great associations in Iceland that shelter and support cats in need.
One of them is Kattholt, which was established in 1976 and is Iceland's first and only cat shelter. It was founded by Kattavinafélag Íslands, the Friends of Cats Society of Iceland.
It's Kattholt's goal to provide protection for cats, to which animals are entitled by law, and to ensure that felines have a home, food and good care.
Kattholt takes the animals in and tries to find the owner if there is one. If the cat is lost, the owners come pick it up. If not, Kattholt’s employees do their best to find the cats a new home.
Whenever a homeless cat is found anywhere in Iceland it's brought to Kattholt in Reykjavík. It's crazy to think that one shelter is supposed to house every single homeless, stray or abandoned cat from the whole country.
In 2010, Kattholt was given 500 cats to care for by the Icelandic authorities, according to an article on eyjan.is. Five hundred cats, that's sheer lunacy!
So how is Kattholt tackling this major task? Their biggest problem is of course the money. For reasons I cannot understand, the association is NOT sponsored by the government.
Reykjavík City pays a little contribution for each cat found within Reykjavík municipality that is brought to the shelter.
They pay the amazing amount of ISK 1,500 (USD 11.69, EUR 8.39) per day per cat for seven days. Truly generous.
The only way for Kattholt to survive and to keep up their great work is to raise money by arranging bazaars a few times a year where stuff that stores and private persons donate is sold.
Also, the shelter serves as a cat hotel accommodating pet cats while their owners are abroad. One only has to pay ISK 1,200 per day per animal, less money than the City of Reykjavík contributes.
Other supporters of Kattholt are several companies sponsoring the shelter with food for the animals.
For example, the pet food producer Royal Canin donates food regularly. Also, the online pet supplier Gæludýr.is has a special button on their website that allows people to "buy 1kg of food for Kattholt." As soon as a certain amount is reached, Gæludýr.is delivers the food to the cat shelter.
It's so wonderful that all those companies help out, but it's just a drop in the ocean.
I think it's astonishing and shocking how little the government and municipalities do for their homeless pets.
We, the people, are responsible for them and not the animals themselves. It's our duty to take proper care of our animals. And with proper care I'm not talking about euthanizing them.
“People don't realize how important Kattholt is for the city. If Kattholt didn't exist then there would be many, many more homeless cats wandering about the streets and having kittens everywhere,” says Petrún Sigurðardóttir, employee of Kattholt.
“We are trying to lessen the population of cats in Iceland; there are too many cats and too few new homes. That is the problem today. That, and people don't realize the need of spaying and neutering,” She adds.
In fact, in 2005 bylaws were established in Reykjavík obligating the owners of male cats to castrate them unless they are kept inside. Also, all cats are to be given a micro tag and collar with the owner’s contact information.
It makes me sick reading about people who leave their cats behind in an apartment when moving away without notifying anyone. Or taking them to the vet to put them down simply because they don't want them anymore.
If you decide to have a pet, you are responsible for it, period. Also, the laws should be much stricter and the owners should be held accountable if they mistreat or neglect their animals.
That's just common sense, isn't it?
If you want to help: Adopt a cat from the shelter if you have the means. If you already have a cat, take good care of it, castrate and tag it!
Also, food donations and of course monetary donations are welcome: Landsbanki Íslands, account number: 0113-26-000767, kennitala (social security number): 550378-0199.
Katharina Hauptmann – firstname.lastname@example.org