Furtada: the Brazilian cat island abandoned due to the pandemic

Furtada: the Brazilian cat island abandoned due to the pandemic

In Brazil, there is an island inhabited by 250 cats: adopted and fed by fishermen, residents and tourists before the lockdown, with the stop imposed by the Furtada pandemic, it is now an abandoned island, where felines are dying of hunger and thirst.


250 cats on a desert island. This is Furtada, a Brazilian island 20 minutes by speedboat from the city of Mangaratiba (in the state of Rio de Janeiro), not surprisingly nicknamed the ” island of cats “. 

Before the Covid-19 emergency, many people took care of strays : fishermen threw their fish offal at them, curious tourists – as well as the few residents and volunteers – used to bring them food and water.

That all changed with the lockdown and quarantine , when people had to lock themselves up and traffic around the island stopped. And so now, with the disappearance of boats and tourists, the cats are in danger of dying of starvation.

How Furtada became the island of cats

The nickname “island of cats” is due to a couple of residents who, about two decades ago, sailed from the island to the mainland, leaving their two cats behind. 

From that moment, the felines descended from the two progenitors began to proliferate, while other cats were gradually abandoned.  The signs installed as a deterrent have been of little use, as well as the various expedients and the tightening of sanctions or penalties that the authorities have used over the years to prevent people from abandoning animals on the island.  

Thus, despite many cats having died during a long period of drought between 2014 and 2016 , Furtada has become what it is now: a place where, willy-nilly, a large colony of felines finds a home. 

Vipers, hunger and lack of water are the main threats

For cats, life on the island  in some ways very unfriendly  is really tough. First of all, in Furtada there are no sources of fresh water : precisely the scarcity of drinking water means that the animals often suffer from kidney failure, which would require the intervention of veterinary care. 

But that’s not all: the place is teeming with poisonous vipers , a lethal threat to the colony of cats. ” Lizards are also a danger to newborn kittens, in addition to the rocks on which they are thrown when they are abandoned, ” explained Karla de Lucas to Chron., which oversees the protection of animals in the state of Rio and who carried out a site survey on the island in June. ” Other cats, finally, are used as targets by hunters , who sometimes strike without killing “, prolonging the agony of the animals. 

Faced with all this, de Lucas concluded: ” We really need someone who can try to heal this crime which, for us, is cruelty .”

Volunteers on the abandoned cat island

At first, the inhabitants of the area around the island did not realize how dire the situation was. When, in April, the fishermen told how cats, in order to survive, had come to feed on the carcasses of their fellows, the cause of the animals finally found its champions.  

Several volunteers, including members of Animal Hearts Protectors, began making weekly trips to the island to bring food and water. The periodic distribution, currently in progress, makes use of the construction of rudimentary distributors, created from sections of PVC pipes to ensure constant nourishment to the felines.

Besidesask for donations to local businesses, some activists transport cats ashore in case of need , for treatment or surgery, or try to find people who can adopt and care for them. 

However, the situation remains difficult to resolve , given that many areas are inaccessible and that not all animals are easily approached. 

“ Cats that have recently been abandoned are more sociable, we can approach and pet them,” said Joice Puchalski, the coordinator of the volunteer group. ” The situation is different for the wild ones, who remain hidden”: too suspicious to let themselves be helped by those who probably represent their most concrete hope of survival. 

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