Krislin Alert is the founder of Kitten Help, a non-profit organization (NGO), which rescues abandoned kittens in Estonia. This weekend, Alert discussed some of the challenges of setting up and running the organization on Raadio 2 show "Nädalavahetuse hommik."
Alert said she has been a big animal lover all her life. "We used to have a real bird farm in the countryside, and I think that's where this love of animals began," she said.
Alert, volunteered for five years with various NGOs, before setting up her own - Kitten Help - this year, which rescues abandoned kittens. "I've been with five or six NGOs over the years, and I focused more on motherless kittens because I saw that they were the hardest to find a home for," she says.
She came up with the idea of setting up her own NGO around a year ago. "It was a bit scary and I was afraid to take the first step, but we saw how, in other parts of the world, organizations like this that focus on one small issue actually do well - it's easier for shelters and you can do better quality work."
When setting up her own organization, the biggest initial fear for Alert was managing the financial side of things.
"Inevitably, most NGOs are always on a tight budget, so it's hard to find the financial resources for medical bills, food and everything else. That was the biggest question mark for us too, but we've now really thought all that through," she said.
Alert explained that in order to stay financially afloat, the NGO's rules include a clause to ensure that before accepting new kittens, it first assesses whether it has sufficient financial resources to do so. "This way we avoid being constantly in debt. We want to make sure that the cats we have always get the best possible quality care and food."
Kitten Help does not operate solely on funds raised through donations. "We also do a lot of different projects and collaborations ourselves, which don't always raise money, but they do bring in resources," said Alert.
For motherless kittens, the most important thing to do initially is to feed them every few hours. This means that when necessary, Alert has to take the kittens with her no matter what else she has planned.
"Last year I went to a wedding and took two kittens went with me," she said. "I carry on with the usual things and activities, but I make a note that every now and then I have to take ten minutes to feed them while they are in their little cage."
According to Alert, how soon the kittens find a forever home depends a lot on marketing.
"Of course, there are more kittens and abandoned cats than homes, but it hasn't been too difficult for me. I've had about 140 cats pass through my shelter in five years, and only two cats have purposely stayed with me," she said.
Alert has even found some kittens that had been abandoned in a trash can. "Last year I had a litter that had apparently been thrown in a trash can, dumped in the garbage truck, and four kittens were found at the garbage station. It happens quite often," she said.
One of her cats was also found on a train. "Someone had put the cat on a train in Narva and so, that's where we found it."
Alert believes that if people sterilized their cats, the problem could be solved. "It would be great if more people did this," she said.
October is also "Black Cat Month" for many of Estonia's animal shelters.
Ostensibly due to superstitous reasons, cats with black or black and white coats tend to find it more difficult to find a forever home in Estonia.
Therefore, throughout October, according to NGO Varjupaikade MTÜ (Animal Shelters in Estonia), people can bring home a black or black and white cat at a cost of just €1 instead of the usual €35.
Editor: Michael Cole