CANSO – Everyone loves a cute, cuddly kitten – or at least the idea of one – but the reality is sometimes not what you see on the millions of cute kitty videos on social media. The reality can be feral cats in a large colony which is the unhappy result of human recklessness, either through dumping unwanted pets or failing to spay and neuter their feline companions.
In 2012, a Facebook group was formed in Canso with the goal to capture and neuter many of the feral cats wondering the community. In 2015, another Facebook group was formed for a similar purpose: to care for, capture, neuter, spay, and re-home – when possible – the many feral cats in the area. At that time, four cat colonies were identified in Canso.
Last month, a colony of cats in the community became a top priority. Prior to Dec. 2020, the colony had been cared for by the owner of the property where the cats lived but, due to that resident’s poor health, the situation was no longer tenable. Since then, local volunteers have been keeping watch over the approximately 40 cats at the site and looking for permanent care and homes for this population.
Several non-profit organizations have come together to work towards a humane outcome for these animals: the Antigonish chapter of Ca-r-ma.org, the SPCA, Spay Day HRM and numerous individual volunteers.
The Journal spoke to Marlene Morell, founder of the Antigonish chapter of Cat Rescue Maritimes (Ca-r-ma.org), last Friday about this particular cat colony in Canso and what steps have been taken to remedy the situation.
Ca-r-ma had been fielding calls about this location in Canso since mid-December, Morell said. She wanted to help but the problem was a little outside of the organization’s mandate, which is a Trap Neuter Return (TNR) operation.
Morell contacted the SPCA which said they would take as many as 15 to 20 cats, but they needed to be “friendly enough to pick them up and hold them.” A condition that ruled out most of the felines in question.
Morell then turned to an organization called Spay Day located in HRM. That organization works with feral cats and has a barn program for those animals that cannot adapt to human contact.
On Jan. 6, Spay Day trapped 18 cats on the property. Of those, nine returned to Halifax with Spay Day for care and placement, while the remaining ones are under the care of Ca-r-ma Antigonish volunteers and are “not showing signs that they would make good house pets.”
Moving forward, Ca-r-ma will work to trap and care for the cats remaining in the colony. They have already began vetting the cats that were caught last week and are actively seeking barn homes for the animals.
Morell told The Journal that the response in the farming community has been excellent. Many have offered to take pairs of cats into their barns. Any cats leaving Ca-r-ma’s care will be fully vetted before being sent to their new homes.
Cooperation and sharing between organizations and volunteers is the only way this issue could be solved, Morell said. But, she noted, this situation and others like it are not inevitable. Cats don’t create colonies, people do.
“We have reports that people would have pregnant cats or cats and kittens that they didn’t want – that they would drop them on his property (in Canso),” said Morell. She understands that people may not have the money to spay or neuter their pets, but she added, “There are so many rescues in this province that are able to help you – one of them will take them.”
That being said, Morell noted that Ca-r-ma, the SPCA, Spay Day and other rescue organizations are non-profits. They are run by volunteers and in a case like this, hundreds of hours and dollars have gone into saving these cats. “This can all be prevented,” she said.
Morell also told The Journal that the sooner a cat colony is identified, spayed and neutered the better. It is easier to sustain and supply proper shelter to a small colony. Larger ones tend to interbreed and have more health issues.
In this particular instance, Morell said, “I am really happy with how it turned out.… I love helping cats that really don’t have a voice. They don’t have anybody to stand up for them.”
For more information on Ca-r-ma follow their Facebook page: ca-r-ma.org (Cat Rescue Maritimes) - Antigonish Chapter.
Lois Ann Dort, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal