Josette Vanneur is a French woman who has dedicated her life to the wellbeing of pagoda cats in Cambodia.
After working first in the movie industry in Paris then in the travel trade in Tokyo, Josette decided to move to Cambodia after her retirement in 2010 and she settled down in Siem Reap, the city where Angkor Wat is located.
Always an animal lover, she had rescued and re-homed several stray kittens despite her busy work life in France and Japan, with the help of local animal rescue organizations. Once in Siem Reap, she soon started noticing the very poor health condition of the cats and dogs living at pagodas, and she was wondering how she could help. It didn’t take long to find an answer with Katie Russel, an Australian vet nurse also living in Siem Reap, who wanted to start an animal rescue organization. In January 2012, both started rescuing stray dogs and cats, with Katie providing the medical care and Josette fostering them until their recovery and adoption by fellow expatriates. That’s how Josette learned the basics of animal care.
When the vet nurse returned to Australia nine months later, Josette decided to make good use of her newly acquired skills and restarted the animal welfare initiative by herself, buying all of Katie’s clinic equipment and surgery material, and starting to visit pagodas around the city to check the cats living there. It was definitely those sheltered at Wat Athvea, a pagoda located on the way to Tonle Sap lake, that needed help the most.
On February 18, 2013, loaded with cat food and vet medicine, Josette made her first visit to the cats of Wat Athvea, feeding and treating them inside the pagoda, to the surprised eyes of the Abbot and the monks.
Siem Reap Pagoda Cats was born!
Two years of dedicated work until a tragic event occurred at Wat Athvea in March 2015…
As a result, she ceased her visits to Wat Athvea and, once all the cats and kittens she had rescued just before the horrible event were rehabilitated and adopted, she decided to look for another pagoda.
A pagoda located further on the way to Tonle Sap lake, was selected, as the cats were living behind the pagoda, enjoying life outdoor and being sheltered by the monks on their houses’ veranda.