Meet 'guardian angel' of stray cats from northern Israel

Sensitive to the plight of street cats, 29-year-old Vlad Vatkov has utilized his carpentry skills to build little wooden homes for the animals to shelter during rainy winter, placing them all over the city of Kiryat Bialik

Dikla Shahaf|
Most Israelis likely encounter stray cats on a day-to-day basis. Israel’s population of street cats is now believed to be a staggering one million, and most, sadly, don't survive their first year of life due to harsh conditions of the outside world.
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  • Vlad Vatkov, a Kiryat-Bialik-based carpenter, decided to roll up his sleeves and help the animals survive the rainy and cold winters of northern Israel. He has been building small wooden enclosures to serve as shelters, and placing them all over the city.
    3 View gallery
    Vlad Vatkov
    Vlad Vatkov
    Vlad Vatkov
    (Photo: Courtesy)
    "I began building wooden homes for cats two years ago, when I was working as a carpenter," Vatkov, 29, said. "I noticed that there's a lot of raw material that's being discarded and knowing how street cats struggle to escape the cold, I came up with the idea of building those little boxes where they can hide.
    "Once I build them, I distribute them all over Kiryat Bialik. I also make sure to go by shelters I built a long time ago that have been worn out, and I replace them with new ones. I feel truly elated when I see the cats go inside."
    3 View gallery
    A grateful friend
    A grateful friend
    A grateful friend
    (Photo: Courtesy)
    "Unfortunately, not everyone has been supportive of my project, but I don't let that stop me. Every cat who is spared the suffering because of what I do means a lot to me."
    Vatkov also makes sure to give the cats some food and water, and also looks out for their medical needs. Recently there was a cat who had a jaw infection that necessitated a $680 procedure to fix it. Vatkov took the cat to the vet on his own dime to help the animal recover.
    Vatkov is no longer working as a carpenter, but that hasn't stopped him from helping the animals. "Not being in the field anymore, I don't have as much access to the material needed, so I buy it, pay someone to cut it just right and then assemble it myself at home."
    3 View gallery
    The wooden homes
    The wooden homes
    The wooden homes
    (Photo: Private album)
    Every three cat homes he builds run him NIS 300 ($90), but his empathy outweighs the cost.
    "Each time it's cold and I see cats trying to find some warmth, I'm reminded of all the fortunate pets cozying up at people's homes and it drives me to help the stray ones even more."
    Eager to expand the project, Vatkov is requesting public's help with either distributing the shelters, supplying the lumber or donating funds.
    Vlad can be reached at 055-9564125
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