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CatsFeature

Leah’s Pawsitive Future

Alexandra Tolmie

Finding forever families for Canberra’s cats…”

When Alex Tolmie (a self-confessed cat lady) met Alicia Jaques to hear about Leah’s Pawsitive Future, a cat rescue service in North Canberra, they immediately clicked.

There’s a wonderful children’s book called Millions of Cats by Wanda Gag. In the story, a lonely couple decide they want a cat to keep them company. The husband travels far away and comes upon a hillside filled with cats as far as the eye can see. He can’t decide which cat to bring home because they are all equally beautiful, so he convinces them all to follow him home. The story has always resonated with the kind of person who wishes they could rescue every homeless cat they come across.

Alicia is this kind of woman — a brave cat lady with very a big heart. Together with her partner, Fontaine, she owns and operates Leah’s Pawsitive Future. They rescue stray, feral and unwanted cats left to die or be euthanised at NSW pounds.

Cats in the pound are given anywhere between seven to 14 days to be claimed or adopted before they’re put down. After Alicia and Fontaine have the cats de-sexed, vaccinated, microchipped, flea treated and wormed, they start screening applicants to find the cats new homes, or ‘forever families’. They have been operating for just over six months and have rescued over 45 cats and kittens in this short time.

Alicia and Fontaine

Alicia and Fontaine

The idea for the pet rescue began when Alicia and Fontaine were fostering a cat for another pet rescue service but it folded and they were asked if they could keep the cat. Unfortunately, he didn’t get along too well with their existing pet cat, Toto, so they thought they would try to re-home him themselves. The girls paid for his de-sexing and vaccinations out of their own pocket and found a really good home for him.

“All of a sudden we thought, ‘Wow, this is something we could really do!’ Because it was so fulfilling,’’ she reflects.

“He was a really scared cat. He wouldn’t let us come near him. But eventually he started to connect with Fontaine,” says Alicia. “She wasn’t a cat lover at the time. In fact, she was allergic to cats — she would break out in a lot of rashes — but she seems to have developed a tolerance since then. Now we have at least four cats at any one time and then when we re-home two I’m like, ‘We don’t have enough cats! We need more! Where can I get some cats?”

Alicia and Fontaine started small, with just two cats in the beginning. Then began liaising with Pet Rescue, and partnered with the Fyshwick Best Friends Pet Store three months ago (they hold sporadic adoption days there). Alicia also liaises with three other cat rescue businesses, has joined forces with a talented photographer, Michelle Doherty Photo Stories, and utilises Kippax Veterinary Hospital for all treatments. Everyone promotes and assists each other.

“It’s a cool little cat community we’ve got going here in Canberra,” she smiles.

LPF_Alicia and Fon

Not always a cat lover, Fontaine (right) has overcome her cat allergies and supports Leah’s Pawsitive Future alongside Alicia…

Together, Alicia and Fontaine do some pretty comprehensive rehabilitation and temperament testing for each cat that comes into their home. Alicia has her half-siblings help out with the kid-friendly litmus test, and they also work with a foster carer who has a variety of dogs they can test the cats with.

“I don’t usually let people just come over cold and look at the kittens”, she explains.

“I like to know what kind of home you live in and what kind of work you do. This is because the cutest kitten we have may not be best suited with your family dog.

“In this instance, we have stressed out this little kitten, maybe even your dog too, and will need to take the kitten back to find another forever home. Instead, if you let me know what you’re looking for, I can see what type of kittens we have that might tolerate [even love] a puppy sibling. You are then invited over to see which kitten you click with. Ideally, we want the kitten to choose their own family.”

Leah’s Pawsitive Future offers a 14-day trial with a $50 deposit and if everything goes smoothly after this time you can pay the rest of the fee and keep the cat forever. If it doesn’t work out you’re not stuck with a cat that isn’t a good fit for your home, and Alicia and Fontaine can continue to find the kitty a forever family.

The cat rescue is named after Alicia’s mother Leah, who took her own life at the end of 2011 after 16 years of suffering with mental illness and the many struggles of being a single mum. Pawsitive Future refers to the kind of positive future Alicia knows her mum would have liked to look forward to.

“There’s so much guilt,” Alicia reflects. “Everyone who’s affected by suicide feels the same overbearing guilt.”

Alicia moved to Canberra after her mother passed away and moved in with a relative, which enabled her to finish the final six months of Year 12. It was here she was able to develop a relationship with her two half-siblings.

“I love being able to hang out with my siblings,” she says. “They’ve been a great part of my healing.”

Alicia also gives full credit to Fontaine for being there to support her through the good times and the bad. The women have plans to expand their rescue service to other animals in due course, taking advantage of the many resources and great connections they’ve made here.

In Goodbye Mog, the final book of Judith Kerr’s famous Mog series, the eponymous cat passes away. It’s quite shocking for the child readers of this much-loved series, yet the author asserts that while people and cats do die we don’t ever really lose them — it’s how we remember them that counts. Through Leah’s Pawsitive Future, Alicia is remembering her mother in the best way possible and creating a positive future for both herself and her furry charges.

The essentials

What: Leah’s Pawsitive Future – pet rescue service
When: Adoptions are held on occasion (details provided through the Facebook page)
Contact: [email protected]
Web: Visit Pet Rescue or find Leah’s Pawsitive Future on Facebook.

If you are experiencing overwhelming worry and/or feeling down, and it’s negatively affecting your life every day, speak up about it to someone you trust. If you need immediate support call LIFELINE on 13 11 14 or BeyondBlue on 1300 224 636, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

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Alex Tolmie

Alex is the founder and co-chair of the Department of Education and Training Women's Network and a mum of two gorgeous little girls. She has overcome big challenges as a new mother and now loves to help others become confident, joyful mamas themselves. She blogs about her experience at draxela.com More about the Author

  • Samantha Hardy

    I went to visit these guys last week and they are lovely! I’m hoping they can help me find a kitten to give a good home to! Keep up the good work!

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