August 31, 2016

Adventures in Cat Catching

Amazon CARES Motocar
We hopped aboard the official Amazon CARES motocar for our first mission: catching feral cats in the Belen Market for sterilization and re-release. This market is the largest in Iquitos City, spanning for at least 20 blocks near the Itaya River (a tributary of the Amazon River). The market is a complex maze of vendors selling everything from exotic jungle fruits and vegetables, to all types of meat, to Amazonian herbs, medicines, and questionable drink concoctions.
Amazon CARES was having a major Campaign to Spay & Neuter street cats, which included implementing this sterilization initiative in the local market, where the feral cat population is out of control. Sydney and I had arrived to Iquitos in perfect timing to help out!

Captured cats ready to be spayed & neutered
Moving through  the crowds of people and mototaxis, we unloaded our gear making our way to an indoor building containing restaurant vendors. It was hot, crowded, and stinky. Immediately we became surrounded by curious bystanders and people pointing out dogs and cats they wanted us to take. I followed veterinary assistant Junior to observe how exactly cat catching was done. The strategy was to first observe from afar, looking for cats that were adult size that did not have an "ear tattoo". At Amazon CARES we ear tattoo all feral cats that come to our clinic as a universal symbol that they've been sterilized already. Resting cats could be carefully picked up, or a net was used to capture quicker cats. I tried my hand at catching some, but Junior was clearly the expert cat catcher and we soon had about 10 cats in a carrier we could transport back to the clinic. Looking more closely, I noted that some of the cats had runny noses and eye discharge- a common sign of upper respiratory infection. Many cats had patches of burned skin, which I was told could sadly be from intentional splashes of hot water to shoo the cats away from the market. As a team we loaded up the cats into our motocar and made our way back to the clinic to prepare for the surgeries. 

Sydney and I ready for action!

While the clinic can only do so many sterilization surgeries in one day, little by little our efforts continue helping to stop the reproductive cycle of cats living here, working towards the stabilization and improved health of the whole population. Sydney ad I are grateful to have had the opportunity to participate in this special campaign! I can't wait to watch this program continue to grow.

Written by Sarita Patel, Amazon CARES Volunteer 

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