What would it be like to be an ... Animal Welfare Officer?

We asked Lyndell Whyte - General Manager of the Hobart Cat Centre - about her job of caring for Hobart’s cats

Lyndell, our Cat Crusader! ....

How many cats and kittens are usually in the Cat Centre? (Sophie, Charlotte, Elsa, Mohammed and Chloe)

Hi guys ... the number of cats and kittens we have at the centre can vary quite a bit during the year. At this time of year, lots of mum cats are having babies so we have lots of kittens, while in Winter we don’t have any kittens at all. The Centre can hold about 45 cats and 40 kittens in our adoption areas.

How many people work in the Centre? (Sophie)

Sophie we have nine people working here, including myself, and because we’re open seven days a week everyone works different shifts so we make sure we have enough people to care for the cats. We also have a lot of volunteers who come along and give their time to help the cats and kittens out.

When you get cats how many are sick and what types of problems might they have? (Elsa & Lucy)

That’s a great question Elsa and Lucy. Luckily many of the cats we receive at the centre are healthy, but we do get some who are ill. The most common problem we see is cat flu, which is highly contagious. Your pet cats are hopefully vaccinated against it, but cats living on their own with no one to care for them often get it and pass it to their kittens. Cats can also come to us with ear mites and ring worm.

The logo for the Hobart Cat Centre

How many times a day do you feed a cat? (Daniel & Noah)

Hey Daniel and Noah – our cats are fed twice a day, breakfast and dinner, but it really depends on the cat itself. Some cats can have access to food all day and can just snack all day. Others are so piggy about their food that their food must be carefully controlled, so they don’t eat too much and become overweight which is really bad for their health.

What food do you feed cats at the centre and where does it come from? (Mohammed and Alexander)

Thanks for asking that question Alexander and Mohammed. The cats at the Centre get a variety of different foods. Our adoption cats are all fed Hills Science Diet which the wonderful people at Hills donate to us. They also donate to animal welfare organisations in 75 different countries. In addition, many generous people around Hobart donate food to us as well and I can assure you we use it all in our various areas including quarantine, sick bay and the nursery. After all we have more than 3000 cats every year to feed!

Where do you get the money to feed the cats? (Leo)

Hi Leo, wow that’s a great name for a cat lover ... as mentioned above fortunately almost all our food is donated to us ... which is very lucky because we have lots of other things we need to pay for running the centre and we have to raise almost all of the money ourselves through different activities. Obviously with so many cats coming to us we have lots of vet bills ... we wash 70 bowls a day so we need washing up liquid and we wash about five loads of blankets and towels every day, but that’s just the start. We have lots of different ways we raise money – we run a boarding facility for cats to have holidays, and we have two op-shops which help. We also have sponsorships where people can sponsor a cat while they stay with us, and we have fundraisers like our Easter raffle. We work very hard to make sure we have enough money to care for our cats well.

Not everyone was so enthusiastic about a visit by a cat!

Is it hard looking after cats? (Charlotte and Kai)

Charlotte and Kai, it’s not hard to look after the cats but it is hard work. We have so many things we need to do each day and every single one of our animals needs our attention, so we need to make sure they are all happy and healthy all the time. We looooove our cats so we don’t mind the hard work, but it is definitely a full-time job.

How hard is it to deal with a naughty or mean cat or kitten? (Ellie)

Great question Ellie. The most difficult thing is working out why they are being naughty and mean and then try to decide what is going to be the best way to solve the problem. Cats are just like us in that they get scared and upset and confused, and sometimes that comes across as being mean. They may bite or scratch. The important thing to remember they often don’t really understand that we’re trying to help them. If a cat is showing signs of aggression, we generally will try and give them time to settle down in a quiet place and then see what we can do to help. At all times though we need to be very careful about our own safety and make sure we don’t get bitten or scratched.

Are the cats free or does it cost money to get one? (Leo and Tyrus)

That’s a good one Leo and Tyrus.Our cats cost $170 to adopt from the Centre and for that your new feline family member will be desexed, microchipped, wormed, defleaed, had his or her first or maybe second vaccinations ... AND they come with a two-week health promise which means that if they get sick in the first two weeks we will send them to our vet.

Sticker AND a book mark! Everyone's a winner!

Where do the cats come from that end up at the Centre? (Tyrus and Ezekiel)

You guys have the good questions ... The cats come to us for a variety of reasons. Many are strays and have gotten lost from their families and don’t have a microchip or collar, so we can’t return them. Some get left behind when people move and some come to us because their owners can’t care for them any longer. Some also come to us because people are moving house and they aren’t allowed to have a pet in their new home

Do you get many feral cats? (Chloe)

Hi Chloe ... we do get a lot of feral cats through the centre but the high proportion are those which people mistake for feral. These are actually just cats that are now living wild – cats that have once been pets and have been alone for a long time. There is a bit of a difference but generally they are very hard to tell apart and they often act and look very similar. That’s why desexing is so important. It will help stop these animals ending up wild.

'We learnt so much stuff about cats today. It was awesome!"

How do you know what the cats are saying? (Ezekiel)

Hi Ezekiel. I could say that we’re all magic cat whisperers but the truth is we watch and we listen. Cats will always tell you what they want either through their meow or their body language, it’s just a matter of knowing what to look for. For example purring usually means that a cat is content and happy while a hiss usually means ‘stay away’. We can all understand our cats if we just take the time to look and learn.

How many hours a day does a cat sleep? (Bridget)

Bridget, the older a cat gets the longer they will sleep. Although ideas vary, it’s thought cats when they reach adulthood will sleep between 18 and 20 hours per day. The rest of the time is spent, eating, grooming, climbing and playing. Makes you wish you were a cat doesn’t it???

How do you know if a cat is sick? (Charlie)

Good question Charlie. Cats are a little tricky when it comes to being sick because they are very good at what we call masking their illness. That means they often pretend they are feeling good when they’re not. Also it depends on what’s wrong as to what you need to look for. Generally if a cat stops eating and seems even more sleepy than usual there’s probably something wrong. If their ears are very hot then they may have a temperature and if they are vocalising (yowling etc) they may be in pain. Also if their personality changes then there may be something wrong as well. The best idea is if you are worried about puss then take them to the vet straight away.

So many questions to ask about cats and cat care!

What is the most interesting thing about your job? (Bridget)

Gosh Bridget, that’s a toughy, but I would have to say the very best thing about my job without any doubt is the fact that we save lives by providing a safe place where cats can come and stay free from fear and where their new family can find them. Our work is very important and every single day we save a life ... there aren’t too many jobs where you can say that!

Thank you Lyndell for all your hard work in the Cat Centre and writing back to us too. Your answers were really interesting. We will have to come and visit you at the Centre and say hello to some of the moggies soon.

Ezekiel has drawn an exceptionally proud puss; Tyrus has sketched a playful kitten; and Lucy has a most-colourful cat with a crown!

Bridget has depicted a very passionate puss; Elsa has captured a clowning cat; and Mimo has the sweetest cat in the street.

Charlotte, is that cat winking at us?; Sophie has a sophisticated cat in her house; and Ash has a thoughtful cat. What DOES a cat think?