Hackney has UK’s only cat protection officer and she rescued these adorable kittens

O'Reilly is still looking for a home. (Picture: Paul Dobbs).

O'Reilly is still looking for a home. (Picture: Paul Dobbs). - Credit: Archant

A litter of rare kittens has been taken in after being rescued by the only council cat protection officer in the country – who works in Hackney.

Barbara Read with her cat Shola.

Barbara Read with her cat Shola. - Credit: Archant

Barbara Read, 63, has been volunteering for the town hall for more than three years, and a cat lover all her life. But she had never seen anything like Pollyanna and her kittens.

The cats, which were rescued from near a council depot, are polydactyl, meaning they have extra toes on each foot. The genetic defect makes it look like they have thumbs. Ernest Hemingway famously loved cats like this. But Pollyanna and co might not have survived had it not been for Barbara.

Most of the cats have now been fostered by Hackney’s business information officer Paul Dobbs, who said his Dalston flat had turned “pretty chaotic” as a result.

Barbara, of Stoke Newington, believes cats are neglected despite their popularity. She said: “It’s hugely rewarding to help cats. They are the animals most in need of help. There’s an irony in that as they are the most searched for thing on the internet.”

Pollyanna, who was rescued along with her seven kittens. Her 'thumb' can be seen on her paw. (Pictur

Pollyanna, who was rescued along with her seven kittens. Her 'thumb' can be seen on her paw. (Picture: Paul Dobbs). - Credit: Archant

Barbara is now trying to find home’s for Pollyanna and O’Reilly through her cat charity Feline Friends, which along with the Celia Hammond Animal Trust is one of two “frontline” cat charities in the country. Barbara began working for Hackney in 2014, albeit under strange circumstances.

She explained: “A friend of mine had their cat killed by a dog off its lead and I complained to the council to say they should have two dog wardens.

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“I then realised what good work they did and offered my services. I get more work through the council than I do with the charity!”

There are about 50 volunteers working for Barbara across London, but she wants more to come forward to help find homes for the 500,000 stray or feral cats in the capital.

She added: “We’re always looking for fosterers, donations and volunteers. We have a lot of professionals helping. We’re not crazy cat people.”

Barbara started the charity eight years ago, leaving behind her career as an events organiser in the art world. “I’ve worked with David Bowie, Paul McCartney and Patti Smith,” she said. “They were lovely, but I prefer working with cats.”

To enquire about fostering Pollyanna or O’Reilly, or to find out more about volunteering, email Barbara at admin@felinefriendslondon.uk, or visit felinefriendslondon.uk.