To the Editor,
Feb. 27 is International Spay Day, an opportunity to call attention to the plight of homeless cats in our community.
The failure of cat owners to spay/neuter their pets is the fundamental cause of homeless cat overpopulation and the misery that the resulting stray and feral animals endure. Desperate for food and shelter, frost-bitten, flea and mite-ridden, and often injured, this free-roaming and growing population troubles neighborhoods in our cities and towns as well as owners of rural properties.
Homeless, free-roaming cats congregate wherever they can find food and shelter, often forming a colony. A colony often begins with a single pregnant female stray – an unsprayed, free-roaming, and abandoned pet. Within a year, the number of cats on that one site can grow to two dozen animals. Another year will see numbers increase to 65 to 70 cats.
Kittens born on cat colonies will grow up as feral animals, unless exposed to people, handled and socialized within the first few months of life. Feral cats are not suitable for adoption into homes. Otherwise ferals have the same needs as pet cats, including the need to be spayed or neutered.
CARMA - Cat Rescue Maritimes focuses on controlling cat colony populations through a trap-neuter-return (TNR) program run by volunteers working with property owners and neighborhoods. Cat colonies are home not only to ferals but also to many abandoned pets. Typically, these are cats left behind when their owners move or cats dropped off to fend for themselves in the country. Typically, also they have not been spayed or neutered. Many cannot survive colony conditions and for humane reasons, must be removed into foster care.
Cat overpopulation problems can be humanely solved through spay/neuter surgery. Since their formation in 2006 CARMA chapters have neutered and spayed just over 20,000 cats, thus preventing 2 million cats from being born (to save 100 cats, just spay 1.) Humane groups must work together to make this necessary operation more accessible. Municipal and provincial governments also have a role to play.
Michelle Hicks, Amherst