Fri, Jan 14, 2022 6:00 AM
Brenna Coleman with nine-week-old Pogo, whose mother was found dead one week before Christmas. Photo: Kate Russell.
Brenna Coleman is not your typical cat lady.
While most cat lovers focus on those that are alive, the 24-year-old Nelson woman has dedicated the last five years to helping those who are not.
“I have been driving around Nelson, picking up cats that have been hit by cars and have passed away,” Brenna says. “Some have families that are looking for them, some are strays, but all deserve to be taken care of.”
Since 2016, she estimates that she has helped put to rest almost 400 cats in the region.
“I try not to keep count, as there are so many. I had four cats in one day once and that was hard, it almost broke me.”
Brenna says it was an unplanned ‘pick-up’ that started her crusade. That was a random Facebook plea from a member of the public who had found a dead cat in a bush which looked like it had been there for several weeks.
The post caught Brenna’s eye, sending her on a mission to retrieve the cat and solve the mystery of who it belonged to.
“It turned out to be an elderly woman who had owned the cat for 18 years - she had adopted her from the SPCA as a kitten. She was so grateful, so I knew I had to keep going.”
Brenna says her search to find her own cat, Hunter, who went missing in 2016, also gives her the motivation to keep going.
“I don’t want other people to go through what I’m going through. I want to give these cats a chance at getting home so the families can have closure.”
Recently she found a deceased unneutered male, an eight-week-old kitten, and a lactating mother who was feeding her kittens.
“She never had a chance, so I now have her kittens with me. I have seen it all - it is disgusting and very sad, a lot of these cats aren’t even recognisable.”
Brenna does the work totally unfunded, and entirely from the goodness of her own heart.
“It’s hard, but I always have what I need and gas in the car.”
In the last six months offers of blankets, towels, gloves, and petrol money have started trickling in.
“It’s hard for me to accept that kind of help. I’ve recently realised I can’t do it all on my own.”
She says she relies on people contacting her through her Facebook group ‘Deceased cats Nelson NZ - Atawhai to Hope’ and monitors other community pages.
“I’ll do my best to get there as soon as I can and have also picked up dogs and rabbits.”
Brenna describes herself as a “huge” animal lover and owns three cats, two dogs, a rabbit, and five fish tanks.
She also has a good relationship with the vets in the region, who will check the deceased cats for microchips.
“I am super grateful to them.”
Brenna says a microchipping bylaw for cats would help the situation and her goal is to work towards seeing this mandated.
“With the last six cats I have picked up only one was microchipped and that microchip was not even registered.”
Although she says the work is emotionally, physically, and mentally draining, she has no plans on stopping.
“There have been times when I have broken down and cried but I will always give each one a cuddle and a scratch on the head and hope that next time I’ll get a longer break between cats.”
Brenna has set up a givealittle page to help fund her project which can be found here.