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Caring Local Saves Hundreds of Abandoned and Stray Cats

Elzbieta Gontarska juggles a career in publishing, a 19-month-old daughter and still finds time to rescue and rehome hundreds of stray or abandoned cats.

The 40-year-old moved to Stoke Newington from Poland 12 years ago to live with her partner – his cat Mudge was dying and seeing his suffering sparked a desire to help other cats.  She started feeding and taking in stray cats and, when space ran out, she turned to the internet and Facebook to see if others would be willing to help.

Stokey Cats & Dogs was born in 2014. The independent rescue organisation has since rehomed more than 350 cats, many of which have needed veterinary treatment ranging from neutering, microchips and worming to more serious antibiotics and sometimes operations.

Elzbieta has built a network of over 1,400 locals, many of who contribute to the cost of caring for abandoned cats and dogs and some who go on to be foster carers or adopters.  She spends much of her time carrying out home checks to make sure environments are suitable for cats to be housed in and rushing to and from the vets. Stray or abandoned dogs are mostly taken to dog rescue charities for care.

She said: “It’s an amazing feeling to see a cat going to a home but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t shed a few tears. Some of the cats are in a terrible state when we get to them – we’ve had cases where a cat has been almost dead, but the vets and foster carers have managed to nurse it back to health.”

She has a microchip reader so, when cats are reported homeless, she can check for a microchip and take it to the vet to track the owner. She takes pictures of cats which aren’t microchipped, puts posters up, posts on social media and puts a collar on them with her contact details asking the owner to get in touch so they know it’s being cared for.

Stray, abandoned or injured animals are taken to the Celia Hammond Animal Trust for treatment and the Trust sometimes helps with rehoming.

Elzbieta added: “I’ve always loved cats and dogs - all animals. But cats have stolen my heart!  I think it’s the way they look at you. You can tell if a cat is looked after – they look confident, like they’re going somewhere, and you can tell from their general appearance if they’re cared for.

“I never judge anybody – circumstances change and sometimes people can no longer look after their cat. But when people simply leave them behind because they’re moving and don’t try to find them a new home – well that’s terrible.”

One of the most moving cases Elzbieta’s dealt with lately was that of Rocky – a black and white cat who was hit head on by a car and left for dead. When she took him to the vet his jaw had been broken in five places and he was unconscious but they nursed him back to health – he lost the sight in one eye and had multiple operations but three month’s on he’s fighting fit.

The cats whose prognosis isn’t so good come home to spend their last days with Elzbieta.

Fundraising for Stokey Cats & Dogs comes via the sale of cat baskets etc on their website, asking for donations from people who adopt the cats and online appeals. The Rio Cinema recently donated the proceeds of two films to vets bills for the organisation and CafeSoVegan recently allowed them to have a stall at their Vegan Market.




It’s an amazing feeling to see a cat going to a home but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t shed a few tears.

Posted 22nd July 2019