iCatCare talks to Lynn Stone, the President and Founder of Chats du Quercy in France about her work with unowned cats and how it all started.
Can you tell me about when and why you started your organisation?
Lynn: My husband and I came to France from England in 2001 with our 2 small children and 2 cats. We’d always taken holidays here, it was our dream to one day move here permanently.
Anyone who has ever visited France will not have failed to notice that there are stray, sickly cats in almost every town and village! Most visitors are astounded, as they imagine France to have similar animal welfare structures in place as the UK. This simply is not true. The situation in France is dire for cats, especially those abandoned.
There are thousands of animal organisations in France, but it is a fragmented system and most charities are run by inexperienced, overburdened people who started the charity by accident from helping one or two cat colonies and who do what they believe to be their best, often holding down several jobs to pay for the minimal care they give as there is no governmental aid and little other financial help to be had. These often close leaving thousands more animals to help every year.
In 2010 we split from the local charity to set up Chats du Quercy. From that time onwards we have flourished, becoming a national resource centre for cats and their welfare. Our aim from the beginning was to do the very best possible, which is why I started looking into cat behaviour. One of the first books I read was Cat Confidential and one of my first courses was with its author, Vicky Halls! Since then I have completed many studies and have successfully passed with merit CertCAB in Pet Ethology. We pride ourselves in being the best in France, sadly we are the only dedicated Cat Adoption Centre in France, but our plans are to soon be opening another, when funds permit.
Do you have any idea of estimated cat populations in France?
Cats are bottom of the care list, even though cat ownership in France now stands at nearly double that of dogs, an estimated 13.8 million! 100,000 are abandoned every summer, it is thought that at least a further 90,000 are euthanized simply because of lack of space. France is not proud of its record for being number 1 for animal abandonment. It is estimated that a further 14 million feral cats exist, although those in animal protection believe this estimate to be hugely conservative.
What do you consider are the biggest challenges for unowned cats in France?
There is little or no knowledge concerning cats, their needs and their behaviour. Often feral cats are caught and killed by hunters. Charities in France are not the same as in the UK, anyone can set up a charity, with no knowledge nor competence in the subject matter.
What are the street cat population issues in your cities?
The situation is more prevalent in large towns and villages, but it is everywhere. However in 2020, many animal organisations have permanently closed due to the lack of funds and problems relating to COVID 19. Many operate constantly in debt, so when COVID hit, many were forced to close permanently.
Are any regions worse than others?
Really the problem is country wide. It simply becomes more of a “nuisance” in villages and towns.
What is the legislation related to cat welfare in France?
France has excellent legislation in place. Abandoning an animal is looked upon seriously and can bring fines as much as 30,000€ or 2 years in prison. Identification of dogs and cats is obligatory. The problem is that the laws are not applied. There is no separate tribunal for animal mistreatment, so horrendous crimes go unchecked.
What work do you undertake, eg TNR or pet cat homing or both?
We carry out both TNR and our Adoption Centre houses abandoned and stray cats.
How many cats do you help every year?
Every year we seem to be able to do more than the previous. With other charities closing due to Covid, the usual 400 cats helped through our Adoption Centre increased to over 500 in 2020.
Our vision is to create adoption centres in every region of France. Our mission is to encourage a world where cat’s needs are known, accepted and respected.
We work holistically, trying to attack the problem from all angles, so, since their creation, we’ve also been members of the EU Cat and Dog Alliance, visiting Brussels when possible to try to lobby French MEP’s, but sadly there has only been one occasion when an MEP accepted our invitation.
We arrange meetings with local town councillors, our website is a resource centre for vets and public alike, and we now receive referrals from vets concerning problem cat behaviour. We never imagined that our life in France would be taken over with running a charity, but once a problem is seen, it is hard to turn your back, and we are very proud of the team that we have created and the work we do.
We have a programme whereby we place cats in retirement homes, centres for handicapped or people with illnesses such as Alzheimer’s. This has been such a benefit to those affected due to the lack of other contact because of COVID.
We have educational programmes for children of all ages. Teachers appreciate the benefits of integrating cat welfare through teaching English and art, the children also appreciate these sessions and absorb the information more easily.
It is for all these reasons that Chats du Quercy is one of the most forward-thinking animal charities in France, with an excellent reputation for maintaining high standards, we are known as a Centre of Excellence. It is also why we have such a high demand on our services and why we are always striving to improve our facilities and services we offer.
For more information about the work of Chats du Quercy, visit their website: