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French refuge inspired by ‘TV star’ cat

A refuge for abandoned cats is looking for homes for their animals, as well as volunteers to help with fundraising, donate food or just spend time there.

Chats de Châtillon ( ) was set up by Judy and Alan Lewis, who were inspired by a cat they had in the UK, which became a “star”. It appeared on the Richard and Judy show and on breakfast TV.

The couple took Afrika, whose back legs were paralysed, from a rescue home in East Anglia and gave him a cart on wheels.

The first thing he did was to climb their Christmas tree.

They took him on walks with their dog and came up with the idea of asking people to sponsor him: “It snowballed from there and he raised thousands of pounds. We had letters from all over the country. He lived 10 happy years.”

The couple have looked after abandoned cats since moving to Châtillon-sur-Thouet, near Parthenay (Deux-Sèvres), 11 years ago.

When six cats were left on their doorstep – they already had seven – they decided it was time to set up as a registered cat refuge charity.

Judy said: “It took a few months to get through the paperwork, but we wanted to do it properly. I worked for three months to get the papers to allow me to open a refuge.

“There were 170 pages in French to study and a multiple-choice online test.

“I was happy I passed.

“I am 68 and my husband soon will be too but we thought that any time we could give would be worthwhile.

“We have built three large insulated cabins and are allowed to take up to 20 cats.

“At present, we have 15. Each time I go to see them I get a lift – they give off so much love that you never feel tired.”

Chats de Châtillon would welcome anyone who can help.

“For example, if someone has a spare hour one afternoon a week to be with our cats, we would love to see them.

“What we really want to do is to get some of the cats adopted so we can make room for more as we are always being told about cats which need saving.

“We ask for a contribution towards chipping, neutering and vaccinations, and we check each potential home.”

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