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Cat-astrophe Cat shelter made homeless by an electrical fire

Stichting Amsterdamse Zwerfkatten, an Amstelveen-based foundation that helps care for and neuter stray cats, was destroyed in an electrical fire last month, killing 20 of the cats and leaving the organisation homeless. Six cats survived and are being temporarily housed by a local veterinarian. ‘Of course, we’re devastated,’ said Olga Wieberdink, the foundation’s coordinator and one of two staffers, ‘but we find small comfort in the thought that the cats died of smoke inhalation and not directly from the fire. We’re trying to move forward. There are other cats to help.’ Zwerfkatten responds to reports of stray cats, picks them up, gets them spayed or neutered (to control overpopulation) and also treats them for worms and fleas. The animals are then either returned to their owners (if identifiable), sent to rescue shelters for adoption or – if they’re too feral for a human home – released into their old neighbourhoods with milder manners, thanks to the neutering. Last year, Zwerfkatten took in 1,028 cats, but they’re now find-

ing it difficult to operate without a facility. They’re seeking a space of at least 120 square metres, with its own entrance, several rooms (new cats must be separated from those who have been treated) and free parking (for the car used to pick up the feral cats), preferably in Amsterdam. If giving over your apartment to a bunch of newly castrated felines isn’t an option, Zwerfkatten is accepting donations to help replace what’s been damaged in the fire, which is pretty much everything: from animal supplies to office equipment. Wieberdink estimates that the foundation will need at least €30,000 to get back on track. Finding a new space for their daily operations is the first urgent step. Meantime, anyone who notices a stray cat on the street can still report it to them, says Wieberdink. ‘It’s important people know that the organisation is not giving up. We’re continuing to pick up cats.’ Stichting Amsterdamse Zwerfkatten (619 0357/ Friend them on Facebook to help pass the word. Marie-Charlotte Pezé

Lies to tell tourists Amsterdam was built on another settlement named Haerlem. Haerlem (now Haarlem) was moved to another location. The reason why the Noord-Zuidlijn is having so many problems now is because they're finding the ruins of the old Haerlem.

Life in the fast lane New report finds scooters drive too fast on bike lanes If you ever had to scurry out of the way of impatient scooter riders while peacefully pedalling along, then this news will come as little surprise. A study by Fietserbond (the Dutch Cyclist Union), found that 94 per cent of snorfietsen, or slow scooters, that use bike lanes, (as distinguished from bromfietsen, fast scooters, which can drive in the street) ride faster than they should. The speed limit for snorfietsen is 25km/h, while the average rider revs it up to 37km/h. Theo Zeegres, traffic consultant at Fietserbond, has proposed two solutions for Amsterdam: ‘Make the bicycle lanes much broader,’ Zeegres says, ‘or forbid slow scooters

from riding on the bike lane.’ Another finding in the report: riding on the street is actually safer for scooter drivers than riding in bike lanes, because of improved visibility. Now that is surprising. Catalina Iorga

TOA action! Women on Waves

On its mission to combat unwanted pregnancies and unsafe abortions, Amsterdam-based Women on Waves reaches all over the world. It’s got information hotlines in Peru, Argentina, Chile and Pakistan. It has also

posted information about safe abortions online. The organisation is best known for making sea voyages to countries where abortions are illegal to provide safe abortions in international waters. When the ship doesn’t set sail, sexual education is provided in countries where it’s needed. Next up in March will be Kenya. ‘In countries where abortions are illegal, there are as many abortions or more when compared to countries where they’re legal,’ says Kinga Jelinska of Women on Waves, ‘only they’re done with unsafe methods. We’re trying to let women know that there is a solution.’ Women on Waves welcomes all volunteers, but is especially seeking multi-lingual volunteers. P.O. Box 15683 (465 0004/ See website for information on how to donate or volunteer. Alex Leeuw

Greg Shapiro’s Comedy Moment Four out of ten victims of Dutch domestic abuse are men. Four out of the four Dutch men responded, ‘Yes, Mistress, I have been very naughty.’

OVERHEARD ‘I have to go now, and it’s not because I don’t like you.’ Insincere man overheard on the Peperstraat. 12  February 2011