Rescuers coming from away to help save feral cats of Little Bay Islands

As the resettlement deadline looms for people living on Little Bay Islands, a team of animal rescuers from two provinces is working to find new homes for the N.L. community's feral cats.

Sonya Higgins, a former Corner Brook resident who now works as an animal rescuer in Nova Scotia, said she knew she had to help when she heard about feral cats being left behind on Little Bay Islands.

"Cats don't have geographical boundaries, but being from Newfoundland, my heart is there," said Higgins, the founder of Healing Animal Scars in Cole Harbour, N.S.

Services like power and water will be cut off for Little Bay Islands on Dec. 31, when all of its human residents — save one couple who will be living off the grid — will be relocating to other parts of Newfoundland.

It would be a very horrible death if they were left on their own without being fed. - Sonya Higgins

Higgins hopes a team of rescuers will be able to safely trap the 50 or so feral cats and transport them to Halifax before that happens.

"It would be a very horrible death if they were left on their own without being fed," Higgins told CBC Newfoundland Morning.

Higgins said a successful trap, neuter, release program with the Nova Scotia SPCA and a registered charity called Spay Day are in a position to help.

Those organizations, along with Newfoundland animal rescue groups, will head to Little Bay Islands to set up humane traps to catch the cats, before transporting them to Nova Scotia on Marine Atlantic ferries.

Submitted by Sarah McLeod

"Once we get them we will have them assessed for personality to see if any of them are adoptable," Higgins said.

If families cannot adopt some of the cats, Higgins said, a suitable barn will be found for them to call home.

"We ensure that the barn owner is willing to provide food for the cat, and initially you must have something like a heated tack room or somewhere that you can put the cat in a cage to get used to the new barn setting initially — you don't want them to run away from the new setting right away," she said.

The biggest obstacle now will be getting the trappers to Little Bay Islands in the winter season, and then on the ferry to Nova Scotia.

"Relocating a cat is tricky business."

Feral cats not suited for adoption: government

While the provincial government initially said it was working with a private veterinarian to help trap and assess feral cats, that changed Tuesday afternoon. 

The vet has withdrawn his or her services, but government said reasons wouldn't be publicly provided to protect the person's privacy. There likely won't be a replacement vet to step in and help with the issue, either. 

The government said while it appreciates the concern of people and groups who want to rehome the cats, "adult feral cats are not considered to be suitable for adoption."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador