Kitten Found Safe Amid Fire Ruins in Hafnarfjörður

Slökkvilið höfuðborgarsvæðisins bs / Facebook. Fire in Hafnarfjörður, August 20, 2023

A young kitten named Koddi was discovered on Wednesday atop the fire-damaged industrial building in Hafnarfjörður where a blaze erupted on Sunday, RÚV reports. The kitten was among four pets reported missing in the wake of the fire.

Building Lacked Adequate Fire Safety Measures

Questions have been raised about the building’s fire safety, as the industrial structure was inadequately equipped to protect its occupants. Authorities are still determining the number of people who may have been living in the facility, which was not zoned for residential use. The building is now considered a total loss.

Quick Response from Local Witnesses

As noted by RÚV, Guðrún Gerður Guðbjörnsdóttir, a local resident who witnessed the blaze, immediately contacted emergency services. Upon realising her daughter lived in the affected building, Gerður rushed into the building to awaken her daughter and her partner. The young couple shared their home with one dog and three cats.

Ongoing Search Efforts Yield Results

Rescue teams successfully located and rescued the couple’s dog and one of the cats soon after the fire was extinguished. Efforts continued to find the remaining missing pets, which led to the discovery of Koddi.

Sandra Ósk Jóhannsdóttir, a volunteer with animal welfare organisation Dýrfinna, stated in an interview with RÚV: “We saw the reflection of Koddi’s eyes from the road above the fire site. Despite responding to calls and treats, the young kitten refused to budge from the rooftop.”

Koddi’s owner was eventually brought to the scene. “Koddi became noticeably more vocal upon hearing a familiar voice; it was so relieved” Sandra observed. Evidently comforted, the kitten made his way down and jumped into its owner’s arms.

Aftermath and Ongoing Search for Missing Pets

While Koddi was discovered near his former home, the apartment is among the structure’s total losses. Sandra observed that it had been heart-rending, watching Koddi alone among the ruins. She added that Koddi had been visibly relieved, frequently purring and napping since being reunited with his owner.

Public Alert for Three More Missing Cats

The animal welfare organisation Dýrfinna continues to search for three additional cats believed to have survived the fire. The organisation is urging the public to report any sightings of the missing pets (see below FB post).

Majority of Dogs in Reykjavík Unregistered

iceland dogs

Animal Services of Reykjavík report of the estimated 10,000 dogs in the city, only 2,500 owners pay the legal registration fee.

In a statement to RÚV, Þorkell Hreiðarsson, director of Animal Services, said: “We lowered the fee by about half two years ago, when Animal Services of Reykjavík City was founded.” Because animal services in Reykjavík are entirely funded by animal registration fees, Þorkell claims the unwillingness to pay is particularly problematic.

In total, Animal Services is funded with some 30 million ISK [$214,000; €200,000]. Services provided include running a kennel for stray dogs and responding to residential noise complaints.

“Ideally, the more people who pay the fees, the more these same fees will decrease,” Þorkell continued.

Registration fees for dogs in Iceland total ISK 15,700 [$112; €105] at the time of writing. Þorkell also believes that many dog owners in Reykjavík may avoid paying their registration fee because the process was once complicated and involved unnecessary paperwork. Now, according to Þorkell, dogs can be registered at the online portal island.is, where Icelandic residents already take care of many bureaucratic tasks. Hopefully, the new convenience will encourage more and more dog owners to pay into the system.

Dog owners in Reykjavík who attend behaviour classes with their animal are also eligible to receive a discount on their registration.

There are, of course, those who simply don’t want to pay. Regarding this unwillingness, Þorkell points out the unfairness of the situation. Because animal services in the city are intended for the entire community, those who pay are, in effect, subsidising the unwilling.

Beloved Diego Reappears in Skeifan

diego cat skeifan

Cat lovers far and wide rejoiced yesterday when Diego, one of Iceland’s most famous cats, returned to his regular haunt in the Skeifan commercial district after a two-month absence. Diego was hit by a car last November and suffered serious injuries. He underwent surgery that same day, and fans and local businesses came together to cover the costs.

“Well, well, well, our guy (cat) is back to work, can you believe it?” posted a fan of Diego’s in a Facebook group dedicated to the furry feline, which boasts over 10,000 members. Diego has owners and a home, but spends most of his day in Skeifan, where he is often spotted lounging on a pile of printer paper in stationery store A4, following his nose into Domino’s Pizza, or welcoming visitors to Hagkaup grocery store. All three of the aforementioned businesses contributed to the fund for Diego’s medical costs following the accident, as did many of his fans and admirers.

Diego appears to be recovering well, though Facebook group member Gunný Eyborg Reynisdóttir wrote that staff members of A4 had to help him up to his usual spot on top of the pile of printer paper.

Akureyri Revokes Nighttime Ban on Free-Roaming Cats

This cat is not Gunnlaugur

A controversial law, which would have banned cat owners from allowing their feline friends from freely roaming the town of Akureyri at night has been revoked, RÚV reports. The ban, which would have gone into effect on January 1, 2025, was initially proposed as a total ban on free-roaming cats, but was later ammended so it would only be in effect at night.

The majority of the Akureyri town council has now voted to drop the ban all together. The decision will be discussed in more detail at a council meeting later in the week. “The rules aren’t changing at all,” said town council president Heimir Örn Árnason during a radio interview on Friday. “The matter’s been shelved for now.”

Cat ban protest party ran for town council last year

The planned ban had been extremely controversial since its initial proposal in 2021, with some opponents saying that the town of Akureyri had done nothing to enforce existing laws regarding outdoor cats or suggesting that it would be better to ban outdoor cats during bird nesting season. People also took issue with the law having no grandfather clause that would have allowed current pet cats to live out the rest of their days as free-roaming cats on the prowl. And cats that couldn’t adjust to being indoors full-time risked being abandoned by their owners, argued volunteers at Akureyri’s Kisukot cat shelter.

The ban was so controversial that a whole new political party, Kattaframboðið, informally known as ‘The Cat Party’ in English, was formed around the issue. Kattaframboðið ran for Akureyri town council in 2022 with the express purpose of reversing the cat ban. The party did not win any seats, but it did secure 373 votes, or 4.1% of all votes that were cast in the election.

Diego, the ‘Most Famous Cat in Iceland,’ Injured in Car Accident

diego cat iceland

Diego, the fluffy, much-loved grey-and-white longhair cat who spends his days lounging around various shops in the Skeifan strip mall in Reykjavík, was hit by car on Friday  and suffered serious injuries, Vísir reports. The unfortunate kitty was taken to a veterinary hospital and underwent surgery that same day.

Diego has a home and owners, but on most days can be found lolling about atop the printer paper in the stationary store A4, padding through the Hagkaup department store, or even dropping in for a slice at Domino’s. In a country of dedicated cat lovers, Diego has been said to be Iceland’s most famous cat. Fans are known to make special trips to Skeifan just to try and spot Diego and a Facebook group in his honor has over 9,500 members.

According to a post on the group on Friday, Diego suffered torn muscles and ligaments in the accident, as well as a bag wound on one leg. He underwent surgery and was to be kept in the animal hospital overnight. Shortly after news of his accident went public, A4 started collecting donations to help pay for Diego’s medical bills. A total of ISK 400,000 [$2,838; €2,725] was collected for Diego’s owners, with A4 and Domino’s both donating ISK 100,000 each [$709; €681].

This article was updated.

Bacterial Infection Brucella Canis Suspected in Dogs in Iceland

The Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority (MAST) has reason to suspect that a bacterial disease called Brucella canis has been found in dogs in Iceland. RÚV reports that Bruncella canis can—in very rare instances—be transmitted from dogs to humans, with young children, pregnant, and immunocompromised people at the greatest risk of serious infection. This is the first time that Brucella canis has been detected in Iceland.

MAST veterinarian Vigdís Tryggvadóttir was quick to clarify that as yet, it is not certain that Bruncella canis actually is in Iceland, although there is a very high likeliness of this. “We have a strong suspicion, but it’s still only a suspicion,” she said. “We’ve sent samples abroad for confirmation, and hopefully, it won’t be [Brucella canis]. But [results] could take up to two weeks.”

In the meantime, MAST has enacted some protocols to curb the spread of infection. Relevant parties have been told to quarantine animals suspected of being infected with Brucella canis and a mating ban has been instated where appropriate. The agency is also collecting samples and information to trace possible spread and is urging dog breeders to observe the strictest level of infection prevention while assisting with whelping. Breeders are also encouraged to contact their veterinarian if a dog miscarries late in gestation or gives birth to stillborn puppies or puppies that die shortly after birth.

Dog breeders and vets at highest risk of exposure, minimal risk for others

Brucella canis is a zoonotic bacterial disease, which means it can be passed from animals to people. In a recent announcement, MAST said its most prominent symptoms in female dogs are miscarriages late in gestation, as well as puppies that are stillborn or die soon after birth; for male dogs, swollen testicles. The most common mode of transmission between dogs is mating.

It is rare for people to become infected with Brucella canis, but the biggest risk of infection is via fluids and tissue when helping an infected dog give birth. This puts dog breeders and veterinarians at the highest risk of infection, says Vigdís, while nearly everyone else has almost no risk of exposure.

In the very unlikely case of infection, symptoms of Brucella canis within people include fever, chills, malaise, loss of appetite, bone and/or muscle pain, and swollen lymph nodes. Symptoms may appear within several days or as much as a month after infection. The disease is not generally transmittable between people.

First time suspected in Iceland

This is the first time that Brucella canis has been suspected of being in Iceland, but it is a very common disease in nearby nations. “Brucella canis is endemic in many countries in Europe and also Asia and further afield,” said Vigdís. “It’s never been diagnosed here and it’s rare in some other European countries. We’ve never had it here and want, of course, to keep it outside our borders.”

Vigdís concluded by saying that even if a case of Brucella canis is confirmed in Iceland, that doesn’t mean an epidemic is breaking out.

Rabbit Rescue Hops to Rehome Sixty Bunnies

Sixty rabbits that were caught in the Elliðaárdalur valley on the east side of Reykjavík need furever homes, Vísir reports, but the process has been slow as there doesn’t seem to be much demand around the city for pet bunnies. Rabbit rescue organizer Gréta Sóley Sigurðardóttir says the project’s primary focus is catching and rehoming domesticated rabbits that are not suited for survival in the wild. Four of the 60 rabbits currently being kept in a temporary shelter are former pet rabbits that were released in the valley by owners who no longer wanted them.

“As it stands, we’re not taking in [as many rabbits] as we were in the beginning,” explained Gréta Sóley. “We’re mainly focused on pet rabbits that are tossed out because they don’t survive long after they’ve been released and then we also watch out for those that are wounded or injured because it’s urgent in those cases to bring them in.”

Since the fall, Villikanínur, a rescue that focuses solely on catching and rehoming these so-called “wild” rabbits, has been working with the Dýrahjálp Íslands animal shelter and the city’s Dýrahald animal services organization to catch many of the 150 – 200 rabbits currently living in Elliðaárdalur. Though rabbit owners might think they are setting their former pets free in a hospitable environment, Villikanínur notes that unfortunately, most of these domesticated rabbits “aren’t as free and living their best life as many people think,” as “they are not made for Icelandic winter.”

Most of the rescued rabbits are being housed in a shelter that was made available to the project organizers on a temporary basis. But until some of them are found homes or short-term fosters, few of their bunny buddies still living in the wild can be taken in.

If you’re interested in adopting or fostering a rescued rabbit, check the Dýrahjálp website or follow Villikanínur on Instagram. You can also donate to the rescue, which is entirely volunteer-run, uses all donations for veterinary expenses, and hopes to one day open a “bunny rescue center where people can bring their bunny instead of letting them go ‘free’” as well as a permanent shelter in Elliðaárdalur where the rabbits can “come inside and stay warm and have enough hay, pallets, and water.”

Controversial Outdoor Cat Ban Approved in Akureyri

cat köttur bird

The city council of Akureyri, North Iceland has approved a motion to ban off-leash outdoor cats. The regulation will take effect in the year 2025, allowing cat owners some time to prepare for the change. Seven councillors voted in support of the ban while four voted against it. The decision has been controversial, with some arguing that city authorities should have tried implementing milder regulations before resorting to a full ban. Akureyri.net reported first.

The proposal was put forth by Independence Party councillor Eva Hrund Einarsdóttir. Three other councillors filed an entry opposing the decision, stating that “the municipality has done little to nothing to enforce the by-laws that are already in force” regarding outdoor cats and that it would have been possible to ban outdoor cats during the night or during the bird breeding season rather than instituting an overall ban. The entry also stated that it would have been better to create a sunset clause that allowed all current outdoor cats in Akureyri to live out the rest of their lives as such.

Ragnheiður Gunnarsdóttir has worked at Kisukot cat shelter in Akureyri for nearly a decade. She told RÚV she fears the ban will lead to pet owners abandoning cats that cannot adjust to only being indoors. Ragnheiður stated that city authorities have not addressed cat ownership at all during the past decade.

Regulations on cat ownership differ across Iceland. In Norðurþing municipality outdoor cats are banned, and owners are subject to a fine of ISK 5,000 ($38/€33) for a first offence. In Reykjavík, outdoor cats are permitted and are a relatively common sight. Several popular Facebook groups and pages exist where locals and visitors share photos of cats spotted on the street.

Cat Shelters Struggle to Keep Up as Owners Give Up COVID Pets

This cat is not Gunnlaugur

There’s been spike in the number of homeless cats taken in by Icelandic shelters this autumn, RÚV reports. The exact reason for this is unknown, but Arndís Björg Sigurgeirsdóttir, director of the Villikettir cat shelter, says that it may be a result of COVID restrictions relaxing: people who got pets during the pandemic are giving those animals up now that they aren’t stuck at home.

“We were really afraid of this during COVID,” Arndís remarked. “That people who were getting bored at home would get cats as cuddly pets.” An increasing number of former pets are now wandering the streets, she continued.

Exacerbating the situation was a popular rumor that there was a shortage of kittens available in Iceland during the pandemic. This led to some people adopting cats for the purposes of selling them.

Villikettir, whose name means ‘wild cat’ or ‘feral cat’ in Icelandic, has traditionally focused its efforts on caring for cats that were never domesticated as pets and had never lived in homes. Now, however, they are also trying to take care of stray cats that have been accustomed to living indoors and having regular food and care.

“I don’t know if people realized what a responsibility [cats are]. They’ve been chosen as pets because a lot of people think they just take care of themselves.”

If you’re interested in supporting Villikettir with donations, providing a foster home for a cat prior to its adoption, or assisting in many other ways, see the organization’s website (in Icelandic) here.

Look What the Cat Dragged In: Plastic Bags, Mismatched Garden Gloves, and a Full Can of Beer

Birta the Cat, who resides in the East Iceland fishing village of Höfn í Hornafirði, has made headlines for being a purrfectly wonderful member of her community. Vísir reports that the frisky feline is an avid trash picker and fills up to two garbage bags a month with trash she’s collected. She’s even been awarded a grant from Blái herinn, The Blue Army environmental association, for her efforts.

Birta spends her days collecting refuse, particularly from a local construction site. “She’s come back with a lot from there,” recalled Birta’s human, Stefanía Hilmarsdóttir. “Weather stripping, for example, four times, big bags. She’s come back from there with five, six-meter [16-19-ft] strips.”

Birta litla plokkari, Facebook

Birta has also been found in pawsession of plastic bags and masks that she’s found in the area. She’s also particularly fond of lost garden gloves. Furtunately, not all of her finds are garbage. On New Year’s morning, she gifted her grateful human an unopened can of beer, which she’d lugged home in a plastic bag.

Birta litla plokkari, Facebook
Birta litla plokkari, Facebook
Birta litla plokkari, Facebook

Birta’s avid environmental efforts have not gone unnoticed. This cat has dragged in so much garbage that Stefanía recently put on an exhibition of some of her most impressive finds at the Hornarfjörður Cultural Center. On top of that, Blái herinn, The Blue Army environmental association, recently awarded Birta a grant to allow for the purchase of a GPS tracker so that people can follow her on her productive prowls around town.

The pawsitive encouragement has been a real boost for Birta.

“She gets so proud when I see she’s got something,” said Stefanía. “Just bursting with it.”

You can follow Birta’s exploits on her Facebook page, here.