Establishing and operating an animal sanctuary can’t be an easy task anywhere in the world, but running a cat sanctuary in a country like Serbia, where cats are utterly marginalized and often horribly abused and where their suffering passes virtually unnoticed, it sounds like mission impossible… From the very beginning, setting up and maintaining Cat Shelter Felix, the one and only cat sanctuary in Serbia, has been a courageous and risky project that no one has ever dared to try before but it's also living proof that even when things look darkest, if there’s a will there’s a way.
Cat Shelter Felix was registered as the first cat shelter in Serbia back in 2011 and is located in a small village in the Vojvodina region. Right now, there are 116 cats at the shelter and almost all of them are rescued from utter abuse, abandonment and neglect. They are all neutered, spayed and vaccinated regularly and last but not least, provided with permanent protection. Some of the Felix kitties are very old, disabled or chronically ill and most of them have lived the tough street life for years until they arrived at the shelter where they finally found safety and learned love for the first time. However, years of street life have left scars both on their bodies and on their minds, they have all had more than their share of trauma and suffering and that’s why their long and tiring journey ends here at the shelter. None of the cats are nor will be put up for adoption, they will stay in this place they know and love for as long as they live so Cat Shelter Felix can serve as an apt example of care and respect for the once unwanted, unadoptable and by many people, the stigmatized and ignored animals.
Although everything seems idyllic from a distance, it takes a lot more than love and good intentions to run a shelter. Cat Shelter Felix is in fact a unique cat haven with plenty of open spaces where all of the rescued cats are provided with a lifetime of care in a cage-free environment. Every day is a struggle to ensure things are kept going and all the cats are well fed, comfortable and as healthy as possible. It's exhausting not only physically but emotionally as well, not to mention what it takes to properly take care of a three-digit number of kitties. Even when everything goes more or less as planned, the Felix kitties’ caretaker Danica already has so much on her plate, but when something unexpected happens, the burden becomes almost too hard to bear. Nevertheless, caring and thoughtful supporters have restored her faith in humanity whenever it seemed that there was no hope left and their kindness has proven that the darkest hour is just before the dawn.
Due to the very severe winter which swept across Europe in 2011, a lot of damage was done to the shelter by the prolonged snow build up, ice and freezing temperatures and three out of four cats’ rooms needed to be repaired, the new roof eaves built and the entire roofing of the auxiliary cat rooms replaced. Despite financial hardships which all animal shelters have, extensive shelter repairs have been underway for more than a year and a half and quite a lot has been accomplished so far in order to ensure that all of the rescued cats at Felix shelter are safe and secure until the end of their natural lives. Almost all of the indoor enclosures have been renovated (out of the four existing cats’ rooms, three were in terrible shape), the new roof eaves have been built, the hydrophore system fixed, the old water pipes replaced, a new yard faucet made and the concrete paths through the yard were paved. While preparing for the roof replacement, a new concrete path between the front entrance into the backyard and garage was made and five new columns needed to support the new roof were built as the existing supporting structure would not stand a chance to bear its weight.
Since undertaking the massive shelter repairs began, back in the spring of 2012, attempts were made to address as many issues as possible, with the replacement of the roof over the auxiliary cats’ rooms being the top priority. Finally, the funds have been raised and the roof replacement will take place this spring, as no construction companies were willing to start the job in the autumn since the weather was totally unpredictable, mostly rainy and cold. But now, in the midst of yet another winter, Felix shelter is facing hard times while struggling to keep afloat. Winters in Vojvodina are usually harsh, with persistent snowfalls accompanied by biting, frosty, northerly winds and maintaining an adequate temperature in all of the cats’ rooms is not an easy task. Central gas heating costs a fortune to run in the cold months but there’s no other way to keep the kitties warm and comfortable while the shelter is in the grip of bitter frost with heavy snowstorms outside. The cold season is always a time of crisis and at this point it’s impossible to tell how many of the oldest and the most delicate kitties will make it through the winter, but all of them deserve the chance to see another spring. All 116 of the Felix kitties are living their fairy tale existences thanks to the support and generosity of cat lovers all over the world, as the shelter has never been provided with any kind of support from the state in the form of governmental funding and it relies entirely on donations. Therefore the future of the Felix kitties is in the hands of all the kindhearted and caring people who believe that every cat matters, because, in the end, it all comes down to compassion and love. Donations of any amount are welcomed and deeply appreciated.