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Wild Whiskers - the charity giving wild kittens and stray cats a second chance

Wild Whiskers Tauranga rescues, rehabilitates and rehomes wild kittens under the age of eight weeks. It also provides information and resources to help with the trapping, neutering, release or euthanasia of older strays.  It is the recipient of a  $8,000 grant from the ANZ NZ Staff Foundation.


Emma Kapua fosters wild kittens, helping to prepare the animals for the change from a life in the wild to being adopted into a new home.


“Being involved with animal rescue is a rollercoaster,” she says.


“Alongside the happy endings of healthy kittens going off to wonderful homes, there is the sadness, frustration and sometimes anger at the fact you can’t save them all.”


Emma began fostering kittens after noticing a number of dumped, feral and stray cats where she lives on the outskirts of Tauranga.


So she got in touch with Wild Whiskers Tauranga for advice.


“With their help we managed to get control of the situation. After that, I really wanted to give back and be part of the solution in terms of rehabilitation for those cats young and healthy enough to be saved and then humanely euthanise those that can’t.”


The charity was established in 2018 by Tauranga veterinary nurse Sharna Asplin.


“When I first started working as a Vet Nurse my eyes were opened to just how many strays and wild kittens were falling through the cracks.”


“We can rescue, rehabilitate and rehome kittens if they are eight weeks or younger as this is their crucial socialisation period.”


Once a kitten weighs at least 1 kg they can be de-sexed, vaccinated, microchipped and put up for adoption.


The charity also provides information and resources for trapping, neutering and return (TNR) or trapping, euthanasia, and disposal (TED), depending on the circumstances of each cat.


“For a cat to be returned there needs to be someone prepared to regularly feed it and look out for its welfare. Having a regular food source means the cat’s less likely to need to hunt.”


If a cat is sick, injured or a nuisance, or doesn’t have a regular food source, that is when they can be trapped and humanely euthanised.


Over the summer months, during kitten season, the charity works with around twenty foster families to take in the wild kittens, aged eight weeks or less.


In their first months kittens have vulnerable immune systems and need almost constant care.


“The foster families ensure the wellbeing of the kittens and provide the human contact that makes adoption possible,” says Sharna.


"When I first started working as a Vet Nurse my eyes were opened to just how many strays and wild kittens were falling through the cracks."  - Sharna Asplin, Wild Whiskers founder.


Left: Sharna Asplin; Right: Emma Kapua


Once it’s certain a kitten will be a good pet, it is de-sexed, vaccinated, microchipped, and put up for adoption.


Emma explains that “aside from the practical care, food, water and shelter, a big part of the job is environmental enrichment, spending time with scared, sick and un-socialised kittens and helping them learn that people are okay.”


“The first meow or purr from a traumatised kitten makes all the hard work so worth it.”


Emma has also adopted two of the cats she initially fostered as kittens.


“Dash and Gigi were both older than the norm and it took months of patience for them to feel comfortable in a home. I felt that I could offer them a great life here and thankfully Wild Whiskers agreed. They are great additions to the fur family.”

Dash and Gigi


So far during the 2021/2022 season (from Oct 1 2021), Wild Whiskers Tauranga has rehomed 72 kittens, and released 20 adult cats.


“This may not seem like much, but when one un-spayed female cat and her offspring can produce 360,000 kittens in their lifetimes, it all adds up,” says Sharna.


“It’s not just about stopping the cycle of unwanted cats. It’s also about the wellbeing and quality of life of both pet cats and stray cats, as well as helping protect our native wildlife,” says Emma.


“A lot of time, patience and resources are needed for what we do. We don’t currently receive any funding and operate solely on donations.”


So they were grateful when the ANZ NZ Staff Foundation made a donation to help with a range of activities, including flea and worm treatments, food, de-sexing, microchipping and vaccinations.


“The ANZ Staff Foundation grant has had a huge impact on the way we run and what care we are able to offer those who need us most,” says Sharna.


David Bricklebank, the chair of the ANZ Staff Foundation Advisory Board, says “it’s inspiring to see the work Wild Whiskers Tauranga is doing to give these kittens and cats the chance of a good life.”


“We were equally impressed with the work they’re doing to educate the community about the problem posed by strays.”


Emma admits that after caring for a kitten, it can be tough to give them up for adoption.


“People often ask how I can let them go after the days, weeks or months of taming, feeding and medication, getting them healthy and happy.”


“I wondered that too at the beginning, but I now know the best day, is the day a well-screened potential adopter comes to my home to meet a kitten and I see the look on their face as they fall instantly in love with it, and my job is done.”



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