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How Villa Kitty is Making a Difference for Bali's Stray Cats

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When North Americans think of Indonesia, they might think of what they see on Instagram: white-sand beaches, romantic villas and yoga retreats.

While the country is definitely filled with natural beauty and tourist attractions, like any destination in the world, there are also some everyday realities that visitors don’t always see—one being its large stray cat population.

Image: Cat Photos By Lee

Luckily, there are a number of local groups passionately working to improve the lives of Indonesia’s vulnerable felines. Villa Kitty Foundation is one of such organizations. Located in Ubud, a town in the uplands of Bali, Villa Kitty began as a small addition to a canine shelter and eventually became its own refuge for cats in 2011. The Villa Kitty team not only provides a safe and loving sanctuary to Bali’s homeless felines, but also veterinary care and advice, sterilization programs, adoption services, education programs, and more.

Here at meowbox, we love to learn about folks who are spreading their knowledge and compassion for cats, both locally and in all corners of the world. This is why we were honoured to interview founder Elizabeth Henzell herself to learn more about Villa Kitty’s incredible work.

Image: Cat Photos By Lee

What can people expect to see and experience during a visit?

Visitors are greeted by a very special dog called Kanga, who came to us on opening day: March 17th, 2011. Kanga loves to lie there listening to her story being told while visitors give her tummy rubs.

Our visitors enter through the “Adoption Centre,” which is made up of four areas. At the very front we have the Romper Rooms and Sun Rooms, which are for older kittens who have been vaccinated and sterilized. Anggun’s Room and the Retirement Village is a lovely space with an outdoor sitting area for our ex-mothers, who were rescued from a life of utter sadness, delivering litter after litter of kittens. Our sterilization and vaccination programs are offered for free, so there are no excuses.

On the west side of the Adoption Centre we have the West Village. The West Village is a great space with loads of climbing, plus an exercise area with hideaway nooks, called the Playground.

Next to the Playground we have more of our beautiful adult feline family. What stories they have! Ask about Fab JS, aka Fabulous Jon Snow.

The Nursery backs onto the Playground. Sadly the Nursery is filled with so many tiny kittens who’ve been found abandoned and brought to Villa Kitty. Our staff works 24 hours a day caring for these little ones who desperately need this care to survive.

The Nursery and our hospital wards are the only places where our cats and kittens are in cages. This is done whilst they are going through treatment for illnesses or preparing for vaccination. Our aim is to get these babies healthy and ready to start the vaccination process. Once this happens, they move into the quarantine building which houses our kittens who are going through the vaccination process, plus some older cats.

And finally, we have our hospital wards: the nursery ward for sick kittens and the respiratory ward for older kittens and cats with the flu. We have a separate Playground area for cats recovering from the flu, called the Respiratory Playground, where these cats can get in an extra boost of sunshine or some tree-climbing to help get them back to good health.

Image: Cat Photos By Lee

Tell us about one current resident kitty that stands out in your mind.

Goodness, this is the hardest question!

Let me tell you about a very special little boy called Zaur.

Zaur had been rescued by a mother and son whilst on holidays. They found Zaur, a sickly, little fellow of just five weeks, struggling to stay alive in the Denpasar markets. This market, and most markets, are notorious for dumping tiny kittens.

Zaur spent the next three weeks at Sunset Vet, where he was monitored for Feline Parvovirus (FPV). Once he was cleared, he came to us. We knew there was no hope for his eye, but what did worry us was his neck: Zaur seemed to have a crick and it was getting worse with time. Our vets consulted with other vets who asked if we’d dropped him on his head. No one had any answers.

At first, his behaviour seemed a little odd: he was like a child, full of a joie de vivre but with no idea of how to play with other children. He lived in his own funny little world.

Zaur started to bond with me, and little by little, I was able to pick him up for a full 10-second cuddle. I then decided to foster this sweet little character. His antics are very funny but often painful. He would hurl himself at my back as I sat working at the computer. I sit on a stool and not a chair, and to get a grip he would use his claws. The pain was shocking. I eventually had to turn my chair slightly to prevent him from jumping on my back.

He then started to do the most amazing thing you could imagine from a kitten who’d never wanted cuddles: Zaur would leap on my lap and then throw two outstretched arms around my neck. I had to stop what I was doing to receive his cuddles, full of purring and neck snuggling—UNTIL he had enough and would bite my hair or meow loudly as if to say, “She’s killing me!” The staff have stopped rushing into the office to see if one of us was being mortally wounded! This funny-looking kitten had no chance of being adopted, so it was signed and sealed: he would stay with me and my other cats and foster kittens. He really is a joy.

Image: Elizabeth Henzell

What can visitors bring with them as a donation?

North American visitors can bring foldaway cat carriers, playpens, blankets, treats, toys, Feliway spray to help calm stressed cats and, of course, the heavy-duty necessities: Popantel all-wormer, or Bravecto for ticks.

We’d be happy to receive anything for our cats and few dogs. We would be extremely grateful to you.

What does the shelter need most right now, in terms of donations?

With the rising number of kittens arriving, financial donations are needed to help us get through each month. We have partnerships with food distributors who offer us a discount.

Indonesia law dictates we buy our veterinary supplies from Indonesian suppliers, and these suppliers offer us a small discount also. Every bit helps.

Villa Kitty Foundation’s lease on our present premises ends on December, 2021, so we will be packing our bags and with our feline family and our few noisy canine kids, we will be leaving our home of 11 years.

Image: Cat Photos By Lee

What are your visiting hours and days? How can someone book a visit?

Our visiting days are Wednesday to Saturday, 10 am-4 pm, and Sunday from 11 am-3 pm.

Every Sunday is our special Sunday lunch under the mango tree. We invite all visitors to join us, as a way to humbly thank them for caring for our feline residents. The delicious vegan Balinese banquet is cooked by an amazing young woman who has worked with me since 2010, along with her younger sister.

To book a visit to the shelter, you can email info@villakittybali.com, message us on Facebook, or contact us through either of our WhatsApp numbers: 628-214-794-4216 (myself) or 628-133-917-5004 (the Villa Kitty vet on duty).

To learn more about the Villa Kitty Foundation, or to find out how you can make a donation, please visit villakitty.com.

Image: Cat Photos By Lee

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