Hello, it’s Molly Armus, Alley Cat Allies’ Staff Attorney! In my work, I’m always connecting with officials and advocates to educate about and implement laws and policies that protect the lives of all cats, no matter where they live. I can’t turn off my advocacy even while on vacation! So when I traveled to Barcelona, Spain, with my family, I just had to take an exciting opportunity to meet with some inspiring local cat advocates.
As we all know, community cats live outdoors in virtually every landscape on every continent where people live. Since Barcelona is the second largest and most populous city in Spain, there are cats living alongside people, and many individuals and organizations are doing amazing work on their behalf.
Among those advocates are Yolanda Van Amersfoort and Magda Giol Mitjans, whom I had the pleasure of meeting one fine morning. Yolanda works with a cat protection organization called Gats de Gràcia, which is based in Barcelona and operates primarily in the district of Gràcia. She is also president of Plataforma Gatera, a coalition of organizations that works to protect the lives of community cats in the Barcelona area. Magda works with Gat I Gos, a Barcelona-based organization that is also a member of Plataforma Gatera.
The mission of Plataforma Gatera, says Yolanda, is to “dignify the lives of the cats of the city” through Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR). Each group within the coalition focuses on a different neighborhood in Barcelona and the community cats who live there. They provide TNR, food, and veterinary care and serve as mediators for any concerned community members. The organizations receive funding from the municipality for spay and neuter surgeries and pay out of pocket for all other expenses.
People are seeing the difference. In fact, more than 450 volunteer caregivers throughout the city now collaborate closely with these groups!
While we discussed their TNR success, Yolanda and Magda showed me around some of Barcelona’s cat advocacy world. Our first stop was Bivero de Tres Pins, a spay and neuter clinic located on Montjuic, a prominent Barcelona hill. The clinic, which is funded by the city, is the only one in Spain that exclusively serves community cats. Local organizations are grateful for this amazing resource, which spays and neuters up to 30 cats per week. There’s also a family of well-loved community cats on the clinic’s grounds as well as a small shelter with some friendly, adoptable cats.
Then we checked in on a family of community cats living at the famous Port of Barcelona. Magda, one of the primary caregivers for these cats, has a special pass to get into the port just to care for them. She says her exclusive access is due to growing support of TNR by the port’s administration and some police officers.
The port’s cats have it good. All have been helped with TNR and their outdoor home is a huge open green space overlooking the water. They even have six trailers complete with litter boxes and beds that they can go into whenever they like.
I was thrilled to see firsthand that Barcelona does not catch and kill community cats but instead invests in humane, effective approaches like TNR and low-cost spay and neuter. Its approach can serve as a model for cities around the world.
“Plataforma Gatera is proud of its constant work with the city to find the most ethical way to manage the feline colonies,” Yolanda told me.
Heavy engagement in the city’s policymaking process is the real driving force behind Plataforma Gatera’s achievements. Recently, the coalition organized a debate with different political groups to explain their proposals for the management and protection of community cats. The coalition also organizes Feline Forums, which invite leading national and international veterinary and animal protection leaders to meet and discuss how best to improve cats’ lives. Plataforma Gatera even received the International Cat Care Welfare Award in 2014 for its incredible work.
I’m very proud and happy I had the chance to meet Magda and Yolanda and learn about the many Spanish advocates who put so much heart, effort, and soul into saving cats’ lives. I’m glad I can share my experience with you, too. Let’s look forward together to all the lifesaving change Plataforma Gatera will continue to make for cats in Barcelona!