From Iceland — A New Neighbourhood Watch In Force

A New Neighbourhood Watch In Force

Published August 27, 2013

A New Neighbourhood Watch In Force

In a warm and quaint little flat in 107 Reykjavík, Friðrik Jónsson and Sólrún Gunnarsdóttir’s faces are illuminated by the blue Facebook hue from their laptops’ screens. Unlike other young married couples, Friðrik and Sólrún are not passing time online because they’ve grown bored with each other. They are working on a group they created called Kattavaktin (“The Cat Watch”), which helps cat owners find their lost pets.

Reykjavík is teeming with an estimated 12,000 felines. They lie lazily on walls and roofs, climb trees, chase each other, and wait for passers-by to shower them with affection. When they go missing, their owners are thrown into a state of panic. Now, in addition to police, vets and animal shelters, they can turn to Kattavaktin.

Users of the online community post pictures of cats that have gone missing or have been found. Through word of mouth and organised search parties a la neighbourhood watches, owners can be a part of the solution instead of waiting passively for something to happen.

The cat watch assembles

Friðrik and Sólrún believe that cat lovers are very aware of the cats in their neighbourhood, spotting new faces easily. “If you see a cat that looks out of place or lost,” Friðrik says, “you want to help, but you can’t just take the cat; then you’d be stealing it.” Friðrik and Sólrún harness this sympathy and awareness into a far-reaching information network, focused on keeping eyes open for lost cats.

At present, there are almost 1,200 members in the group, many of whom are active in the community. “Cats are kind of big on the internet,” Sólrún says, explaining the group’s quick growth. And the scores of memes, Youtube videos and blogs dedicated to cats suggest she is right.

Friðrik says they have a lot of success with the group. The first cat returned involved a match made in heaven where two people shared a photo of the same cat—one advertising their lost pet and the other looking for its owner. And more recently, Friðrik was out knocking on doors with a search party when a woman produced a kitten that had wandered into her home, believing it to be the one they were looking for. It was not, but Friðrik fortunately recognised the kitten as somebody else’s lost pet and returned it to its owners.

As Kattavaktin has grown, they’ve implemented certain protocols for moderating the site, spending their evenings in front of Facebook, deleting funny memes and cute pictures. The last thing they want is for posts of lost cats to get buried under tangential information and at end of the day, the work is worth it thanks to the army of sympathetic people offering help and support.

You can join the Kattavaktin facebook group here.

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