We have written plenty of articles on people asking for help in their activist work because the CatSwoppr team welcomes civic spirit. However, we never discussed in detail what leads one to save cats. If you are considering volunteering in a cat shelter, or if you are simply curious to read more about the stories of these selfless people, then this article is for you! This post is the first part of the series Saving Cats, in which Carmen Trisnevschi, a 30-year-old Romanian woman, shares with us what is it like to help cats. In this first part, we will discuss the circumstances under which Carmen started devoting her existence to cats.
From Dogs to Cats
There has always been this feud between cat people and dog people, but for Carmen, any living soul deserves love and compassion. She confessed to me:
‘I have always liked animals. I grew up with an amazing German Shepherd, but after she died we did not want another dog. I wanted a cat, but my mother did not want one at that moment.’
Eventually, Carmen felt the need to exercise her empathy towards something and so, she started looking for a black kitten to adopt in Romania. When she found one, she made a deal with her housekeeper: she had to take care of the kitten until Carmen could come to take it in her new house. The kitten’s name was Grimm and Carmen was very excited about him. However, when her mother found out about Grimm, she had a change of heart and bought Carmen a British Shorthair kitten. They named the kitten Blue Maya and soon every member of the family became extremely fond of her.
Getting (Over) The Blues
Unfortunately, Carmen’s happiness was short-lived. It turned out that Blue Maya was FIP (Feline Infectious Peritonitis) positive. Carmen’s family spent large sums of money trying to save the kitten, but none of the procedures worked. Since the pain was unbearable for Blue Maya, Carmen had to take the difficult decision to have her euthanized. In a sorrowful tone, Carmen told me:
‘I could see in her eyes that she was done fighting, so I did what I had to do.’
After grieving over Blue Maya, Carmen decided to buy another British Shorthair cat since her mother was in love with this breed. Nonetheless, wanting to help like always, Carmen was determined to get the weakest British Shorthair she could find at the pet store. They called the kitten Blue Ivy and it became a replacement for both Blue Maya and Carmen. I say ‘of Carmen’ because she moved to Athens two years later and she had to leave her mother behind.
Move to Athens
Blue Ivy went on to live with Carmen’s mother, whereas Grimm stayed with Carmen’s housekeeper because they grew attached. Carmen was to live in her mother’s sister’s flat where three cats awaited her. Now that all seemed settled, the move to sunny Greece was full of positive prospects.
Life is, nevertheless, far from a journey in the land of milk and honey. What rises up has to come down. In April 2022, Carmen’s mother passed away. Her death was sudden, and naturally, Carmen was shaken. No matter the circumstances, losing relatives, especially the person who gave birth to you, takes a toll on your mental health.
But Carmen is a fighter. She knows that the world keeps spinning and that her empathy was much needed in this world. So, like always, she did what she had to do: help. She first found Blue Ivy a new house, her aunts’ apartment. Carmen would have loved to have Blue Ivy live with her, but her space was limited for an independent cat like Blue Ivy.
Why was her space limited? Because Carmen was already taking care of 11 cats in 2022! It all started after she moved to Athens in 2019. After she eventually found accommodation on her own, she immediately adopted two cats! The previous tenant of her accommodation had left her two cats behind. They were supposed to return from the UK and take the cats back with them, but that never happened, though, so Carmen simply became their pawrent. She named the cats Harvey and Freddy and without realising it, she embarked on the journey of her life.
Suddenly A Mother
The two cats she adopted had special needs, but, due to her maternal instincts and her deep understanding of cat behaviour, she managed to create a welcoming place for Harvey and Freddy. Harvey was involved in a car accident as a kitten and as a result, he lost his left paw and shoulder. Harvey is not, however, needy because of his handicap. In fact, he is acting like any normal cat, as how Carmen humorously remarks:
'He is a very needy cat. Not for daily activities - nooo, he runs, he jumps very high, and he does everything a normal cat would do. But he is very needy of ME!’
Harvey was abandoned by his mother at birth, so he suffers from abandonment issues. Nonetheless, Carmen is very understanding of his issues. She rarely says no when he seeks to be in her arms looking for assurance. She never refuses his wish to follow her everywhere. She knows too well what it is like to lose someone.
Freddy, on the other hand, is simply spoilt! Not only by Carmen but also by Harvey! Freddy is younger than Harvey, and Harvey treats him like a younger sibling. He cleans him, he washes his eyes and ears like a good big brother.
Like any family, Freddy and Harvey fight sometimes, but it never gets dangerous. A good mother knows when to let the two brothers solve their feud, so Carmen never intervenes.
On ‘Pretty’ Cats, Maternal Instincts and Start of Activism
A few months after she got used to her new living situation, another cat appeared in her life: Oscar:
‘A friend of a friend had a cat they couldn’t keep, so I offered to keep it and give it up for adoption. And this is how Oscar came to me.’
Carmen was happy to help and she diligently posted advertisements in hopes of finding Oscar a new pawrent, but no one wanted him. In people’s eyes, Oscar was not pretty enough. This struck a cord in Carmen and decided to focus more on unwanted cats. She kept Oscar, and even if she would like to hide it, she admits that she has a soft spot for him. There is something about outsiders which fascinates Carmen. She wants to show people that any cat deserves equal love.
From Three to Seven
Eventually, Carmen’s values led her to engage even more in activist work. She started volunteering at an NGO called NineLivesGreece which helps stray cats find new homes. She has been working there for a few months when she was asked to take care of more cats:
‘I had saved kittens before I got my 4 furry babies. For example, I helped NineLivesGreece save Shordy. I fed him and I went full mamma mode. Now he lives with my boyfriend’s mother. But I always seemed to be good with kittens, so I was not surprised when the NGO contacted me to help feed four more cats.’
It was during lockdown when Carmen got called to a random volunteer’s house to help them nurse four kittens which were found next to a garbage bin. This volunteer could not take care of all these kittens properly because she was living with five other people. The initial deal was that she would take care of only two of them. However, when Carmen saw the kittens in the carton box, her heart melted! She knew that she had to take all of them!
Dear reader, you may wonder how is life with so many cats. I myself cannot imagine what is it like to nurse four kittens! While volunteering can be fruitful, you should be aware that this is not a job for anyone. It calls for dedication, understanding and patience, and above all, true love for cats!
If you are curious to see how Carmen managed, then stayed tuned for part two of Saving Cats. Make sure to follow us at @catswoppr on Instagram and Facebook. If you want to ask Carmen any questions, then reach out to her at @carmen.trisnevschi.