There is an island off of Rio de Janeiro that is known by cat lovers around the world. It is full of felines, and those animals were fed by the locals, as well as tourists who would visit the island. That was before the novel coronavirus turned our lives upside down.
Support was soon waning, and unfortunately, it led to a distressing situation. Fishermen reported seeing a group of cats eating the corpses of other cats, according to HUFFPOST.
It takes about 20 minutes by boat to reach Furtada Island, which is commonly known as the “Island of the Cats.” It is one of the hundreds of beautiful islands located off of the tropical coast of Brazil.
Fishermen have often helped to feed the cats by tossing fish guts and unwanted fish onto the island as they passed by. Bowls of water and cat food purchased from a store would be left by others. There were hundreds of cats on the island that were doing quite well, including some that were newly stranded on the island.
When the coronavirus pandemic put people in lockdown, tourism took a nosedive. Restaurants that would purchase seafood from the boats were also closed, so boat traffic was reduced to a minimum. The cats suffered as a result of the lack of food being taken to the island.
When fishermen brought word back of what was happening on the island in April, the locals were shocked.
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According to HUFFPOST, Jorge de Morais who works in a local group that rescues animals from abuse said, “The number of boats fell, the number of tourists, and we saw the condition of those animals on the island. So we mobilized.”
Local businesses were asked for donations by volunteers. Some rudimentary water and food dispensers were installed starting in April. Those dispensers, made from PVC, are being restocked on a weekly basis by volunteers.
De Morais and three others were on the island to refill dispensers on Tuesday as cats were moving about on the rocky shore.
The coordinator for the group, Joice Puchalski had the following to say according to HUFFPOST: “Cats that are recently discarded, they’re more sociable. You saw we can get close, pet them. But not the feral ones. They’re all hidden, and you see them at night, because of their eyes.”
There were a couple who were the only residents on the island about 20 years ago. You can trace many of the 250 cats back to that time. When the couple left, they left behind the cats and they started to populate the deserted island. People took notice of the cat population, with some thinking that it was a nice place to leave behind their unwanted pets and strays.
Authorities were concerned about people abandoning animals on the island. They made it a crime, but signs trying to get people to stop have not had the needed effect.
The overseer of animal protection in Rio de Janeiro, Karla de Lucas, went to inspect the island in June. She met up with environmental authorities and the Navy to explore possible punishments. In addition, Congress passed a law that increased penalties for the mistreatment of pets, including five years in prison.
There is limited drinking water on the island because no springs exist. Many of the cats suffer from kidney problems, but pit vipers and their poisonous bites are the biggest issue. If a kitten is wounded, many lizards will also take the opportunity to attack. Some boatmen throw cats onto the rocks, also causing injury.
Volunteers try to provide treatment or surgery by bringing the felines to the shore when necessary. They also look for people to adopt each animal, but they will bring it back to the island if that adoption isn’t successful.
Puchalski sums things up nicely when she said to HUFFPOST: “We really need someone who can join forces with us to try to heal this criminality that, for us, is cruelty.”
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