Cats are Celia Dean’s life as she takes care of 24 disabled or ill kittens. And whilst she would not be without her precious feline friends, spiralling costs can take their toll and she is now appealing for donations to raise funds for supplies.
When little Mimi came into Celia Dean’s garden more than 13 years ago, it awoke a caternal instinct.
Now, she runs Auntie Celia’s Cat Sanctuary from her home in Ingol, taking care of 24 sick kittens.
Find out more about the cats here: Meet the furry friends at Auntie Celia's Cat Sanctuary in Ingol
The 65-year-old, who has three children, seven grandchildren and two great grandchildren, says: “I had always been a dog person but when I met my husband he had two cats. They won me over and showed me that every cat has a personality and that they respond so wonderfully to love and proper care.
“The first rescue cat was a little girl tabby who moved into my front garden having left a cruel family. She had open wounds and her neck was covered in fleas. She had a swollen mouth and nose and we had to get her on a drip. We nearly lost her but the vet managed to save her.
“It took nine months of patience to gain her trust, then one day she came in and stayed for more than 13 years. She lived to be almost 20.
“But it was only five years ago when I retired that I started looking after more cats that nobody wanted and had something wrong with them.
“This sanctuary is home to cats and kittens who have been traumatised by the worst human behaviour, deliberately burned, left injured, made homeless, left neglected without medical treatment, bagged up and deliberately thrown away.
“This sanctuary is also home to special needs cats and kittens. One has no eyes; two have cerebellar hypoplasia; and another is paralysed from the hips down after being thrown to guard dogs.”
Celia and her husband Tim have opened up their home and garden to the cats, with only the kitchen out of bounds.
They even had a ‘catio’ built in the garden.
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Celia, a former nurse at the gynaecology ward at Royal Preston Hospital, says: “We had the outside run built after one cat came home with her face burned by chemicals. She was lucky not to ingest any. We think she was the victim of a chemical cat trap.
“The catio has 24 hour access to the house and it gives the cats a chance to run, climb, sit in the fresh air, play with the water or get wet in the rain, as they prefer.
“We also had an enclosed porch added to the front of the house to give us double door security so the cats in the sanctuary don’t get out accidentally.”
The couple dedicate their life to taking care of the cats, waking up as early as 5am.
Celia adds: “After breakfast I make sure the cats and kittens on medication get an appropriate dose of whatever they need.
“The litter trays inside and outside need emptying, cleaning and refilling every morning.
“Floors and the catio have to be kept clean and regularly disinfected, the numerous cat climbing frames need vacuum cleaning, and cat beds need to be washed and dried.
“There is always something to be done to keep their home clean and safe. It’s my home and my husband’s home as well and like everyone, I work hard to keep it presentable.
“Feeding time happens again late afternoon. The litter tray ritual happens again mid evening and the medication routine happens once more, before bedtime.
“If it’s a summer’s day, many of the cats prefer the fresh air of the catio but they have a choice so it’s inevitable that some can always be found, snoozing the afternoon away. In the evening, that is a great time for socialising with the animals as they all come for attention. Toys are scattered about and there can be furious games of ping-pong ball football as several cats charge around chasing the ball. At other times they chase each other, climb the cat trees or wrestle with each other.
“I try to give the cats an environment where they can develop their characters in their own time. On a summer’s evening, we sometimes sit out in the catio with the animals, which is something they enjoy as much as us. In winter, everyone looks for a place on the settee, in a cat bed or on a climbing frame while the central heating is on.”
And if 24 cats was not enough to contend with, the couple also have two dogs, a cockapoo called Albert and a labradoodle called Harry.
Celia insists: “The dogs are very protective of the cats. They stay with them when they are newcomers and when the cats are playing together and screaming, Harry will try to separate them.”
It costs more than £100 a week just for food and litter. On top of that, the cats need regular flea and worm treatments, plus permanent medication for an old arthritic tomcat and a cat with severe allergies.
The sanctuary uses some 240 litres of cat litter, 36 cans and 80 pouches of cat food, plus 4 KG dry food, each week, every week, with a few treats sometimes and toys sometimes, if they can be afforded.
Celia estimates she must raise close to £9,000 a year to keep the sanctuary going.
To help fund this Celia runs a second hand stall at Preston Market every Thursday.
She adds: “People kindly donate clothes, shoes, DVDs, CDs and bric-a-brac.
“The sanctuary is totally dependent upon hard work and other people’s kindness. Without the donations of pre loved items, cash and donations of a little cat food now and again, I would not be able to afford to look after the cats. I am so very grateful for what people give me.”
Celia admits organising the stall and looking after the cats is hard work and she would welcome any more help.
“Finding enough money every week is a real challenge. Finding the time to get all the work done in the sanctuary is also a challenge at times.
“It would be a big help if I could find someone to volunteer to help me on my stall. With two people the stall could be bigger and it could generate more funds.
“The structure of the catio needs painting and the paving in the catio needs pointing. If someone could spare a few hours to help with that, I would be so grateful.
“Also, if anyone could donate fish flavour cat food, cat biscuits or wood pellet cat litter now and again, it would make a huge difference.”
Celia adds she will welcome more cats, but will only take disabled or ill one cats or kittens, as she fears older cats will not get on well with the rest of the brood.
For more information or to contact Celia visit Auntie Celias Cat Sanctuary on Facebook or email Aunty-Celias-Cats@uwclub.net
Video taken by Auntie Celia's Cat Sanctuary