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In April 1995 Andrew Storey and myself, Jenny Billimore, first visited Fuerteventura for a one week holiday. Little did we know at that time, how our lives were about to change forever. Throughout the week we witnessed countless cats and kittens dying in the grounds of the holiday apartments, most of them looked as though they were suffering from cat- ‘flu' and many of the kittens had such badly infected eyes they could not open them.
We just knew they were going to have short, sad, painful lives.
At first we tried to help by putting down food each day and washing the kitten's eyes so at least they could see, but each day we found more and more in need of help. We knew without veterinary treatment many of them were going to die.
We tried in vain to make it down to the beach or to the car and carry on with our holiday but in the end it was impossible to pretend that this was anything ‘but' a holiday. I felt so helpless and desperate. I was only able to give them temporary relief and knew as soon as we returned home many would be left to suffer alone.
Leaving was so hard !
When it was time for us to leave the apartment and fly back to England, we were both overwhelmed with sadness at the thought of leaving so many sick cats and kittens. As we boarded our return flight home, I made a promise to the cats that I would not forget them and would come back.
Twinkle coming for breakfast. Twinkle by moonlight.
Always on my mind
Once back home I would spend my lunch breaks at work, trying to contact as many animal welfare groups as I could find to see if they could or would go and help these poor Fuerteventurian cats. I was getting more and more desperate after each organisation I contacted said they same thing ‘they did not have the funds or the staff to help'.
We had to go back - and soon !
So one month after returning home we went back to Fuerteventura to bring home a little black female cat that we just could not forget about, whom we had called Twinkle. As soon as we arrived we went back to the complex where she lived and we found her lying at the bottom of a tree, trying to take shade from the blazing sun. Sadly, since we had left she had caught cat- ‘flu' and despite spending four days in the local vet's, she died. That night we felt numb and cried until the sun came up and that morning we buried our Twinkle just outside our apartment, under her favourite flowering burgonvilla. Later that day, I tried to pull myself together and put on a brave face as I approached the complex owner and asked what was being done about the cat situation, I was horrified when he explained their inhumane methods for controlling the cat population but I was grateful for his honesty, it made me even more determined to help all the cats that we had to leave behind.
As nobody else was able or prepared to carry out humane cat control, I took it upon myself to find some volunteer vets and helpers and raise the money for a cat sterilising trip if the complex owner would help me get permission. The owner not only helped me gain permission from the local authorities in Fuerteventura but he also offered us free use of some accommodation and a place to carry out the operations.
By the end of our second heartbreaking visit to Fuerteventura we decided to bring home another little black cat that we had grown to love and a five week old kitten that had been brought into our apartment by a member of the complex staff after she had heard that Twinkle had died. Nothing could replace Twinkle but as we still had all the necessary quarantine paperwork it seemed the least we could do was to try and give these two little orphans a chance. But, as if life hadn't been cruel enough our second little black cat died just three days after being released from quarantine, this was due to an ear infection that she developed during her six months quarantine. We had called our second black cat Twinkle because they were so alike in every way. It is in memory of our two Twinkle cats that we called our little charity Twinkle Trust Animal Aid.