By Jessica Lovell
Cat owners in the Bagot and Alma streets area are being warned to keep their cats indoors, lest they be mistaken for feral by a group that is trapping and neutering rogue felines. “To ensure that your cat doesn’t get trapped, please keep your cat indoors for the next couple of weeks,” reads a notice from the Animal Alliance of Canada. The one-page flyer describes the organization’s plan to help reduce overpopulation of stray and feral cats in the city by trapping, sterilizing, vaccinating and then returning the cats to the neighbourhood where they were found.
“We’ve been helping, but in a very small way,” said local Animal Alliance representative Karen Levenson, explaining that the organization doesn’t have the resources to tackle the problem on a wide scale.
“This is a community-wide problem,” she said.
The problem develops when people abandon cats or let unneutered cats roam free. They breed, and the kittens don’t get accustomed to human contact. “After a certain period of time, the cats are wild,” Levenson said.
She believes problem could be reduced significantly if people had access to a low-cost spay and neuter clinic.
In the meantime, some people in the Bagot/Alma area who have been feeding a feral cat colony have stepped up to try to get their neighbourhood cats fixed – mainly at their own expense, Levenson said. In collaboration with the Animal Alliance, they are also finding homes for strays, when possible, and even found some feral animals a home in a barn, she says.
The residents and the Animal Alliance are not working with the Guelph Cat Population Task Force, a group that formed last year with the goal of tackling cat overpopulation in Guelph and cat overcrowding in local animal shelters. The task force has considered the possibility of implementing a trap, neuter and return program, but it is still in its early planning stages.
The task force is currently working on a website, said Guelph Humane Society board chair Dr. Shane Bateman, offering an update on the task force’s activities. “We are preparing to roll out a local survey to gauge people’s perceptions and views on many of the issues that surround cats living without owners in our community,” Bateman said in an email.
The task force is hoping to have more information available in the next few weeks, he said. In the meantime, Bateman has reached out to Levenson to determine whether she might be interested in joining the task force or at least sharing information with the group.
Often, the people who look after stray cats are hesitant to bring them to the attention of organizations like the Humane Society, because they are afraid the cats may end up euthanized, said Levenson. Her hope is to get people to see that spaying and neutering the cats could actually be a more favourable solution – and even more cost-effective in the long run – than euthanasia.
By Jessica Lovell