Feral felines rehomed after coal pit closure

Leia the cat'picture: Dillon Bryden
Leia the cat'picture: Dillon Bryden

Two of the last working animals from a British coal mine – four feral cats – have been rehomed at a livery farm in Beverley following closure of the Kellingley Colliery, the UK’s last deep coal pit.

Florence, Betty, Leia and Solo had been kept at the colliery in Beal where they carried out essential vermin control duties in exchange for bed and board.

Now, Leia and Solo have settled in to their new home at Amanda Beal’s livery farm.

Both are said to be settling in well.

She said: “Solo is most definitely very feral and we don’t see much of her – she’s busy keeping the mice under control.

“But Leia very quickly decided that she likes some creature comforts and moved into the house.

“She is very nervous but enjoys human company so she must have been well looked after during her time at the pit.”

When Kellingley Colliery, near Castleford, closed for the final time last month, concerned miners contacted Cats Protection’s York Adoption Centre to ask for help in finding them a new home.

The cats were moved in pairs to nearby farms.

Their relocation marks the end of a long history of working animals in an industry which also called on the services of pit ponies and canary birds.

Cats were originally drafted in to mines to keep pony stables clear of mice and rats.

Florence and Betty – named after miners’ wives Florence Anderson and Betty Cook, who took a prominent role in the 1984 strikes – were rehomed to Karen Scholey at her family’s farm near Green Hammerton, near York.

Cats Protection’s York Adoption Centre Manager James Hodgkison said the charity received a call in December from a former miner who was concerned about the future of the colliery cats.

He said: “Feral cats are those which never received sufficient human contact as kittens and as such are not tame.

“While they are not domesticated, they are highly valued by farmers, smallholders or industrial settings like collieries as they provide an excellent rodent control service.

“The four cats at the Kellingley Colliery were very much valued by workers for keeping rodents in check.”

James added that after receiving the call, Cats Protection had used humane traps to capture the cats before finding them new homes in rural settings.

Cats Protection is the UK’s largest cat charity, helping over 205,000 cats every year through a network of over 250 volunteer-run branches and 32 centres.