Spaying one cat at a time

Amanda Jess
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New Glasgow resident caring for stray cats at Maritime Steel

NEW GLASGOW – Mike McGrath’s daily routine includes going to Maritime Steel and checking on his cats.

They may not live in his home on the west side of New Glasgow, but he cares for him as if they were his own.

McGrath has been catching feral cats at the plant and getting them spayed and neutered with his own cash.

“I think there’s at least 20 living down there at the factory,” he said.

He knows he’s not the only one visiting the cats. He feeds them, but only if their dish isn’t already full.

Flipping through photos of the cats on his computer, it’s clear he enjoys their personalities.

“They’re movie star material,” he says, adding that one in particular likes to sun itself on top of a garbage can.

McGrath isn’t looking for pets, with two cats and a parrot already at home, and he suspects most of them wouldn’t be able to be domesticated anyway.

He has been taking them to the New Glasgow Veterinarian Clinic on Stellarton Road, where Dr. Bruce Rob has putting a notch in each cat’s ear so McGrath doesn’t bring in repeat visitors to the clinic.

So far, he’s paid for 11 surgeries at $130 for a female, and $75 for a male.

He plans to continue doing it for as long as he can, but doesn’t want to make it his life’s work.

McGrath and his wife have always fed any animals that come through their yard, but they’re not activists.

He knows there are charities that do this kind of work, including Ca-r-ma (Cat Rescue Maritimes) in Pictou, but he notes he’s not one.

He also notes there’s a lot cat owners can do to help.

“If people would just get their own cat spayed or neutered, it would make a huge difference,” he said.

He added that spaying and neutering a stray that’s hanging around would be a good idea as well.

All of it began when he was driving by the plant in January with his wife and they spotted several cats.

He started feeding them, and researching feral and wild cats.

McGrath estimates Pictou County is home to approximately 10,000 stray cats, based on research he’s done.

After ‘fixing’ them, McGrath returns them to the property.

“These cats actually perform a useful function.”

McGrath cites the Smithsonian study, published in January 2013, that found unowned cats kill billions of birds and small mammals each year in the United States.

Although the birds might not be a welcomed loss, many of the small mammals are mice and rats.

“Can you imagine 20 billion small rodents that weren’t killed, multiplying?” McGrath asks.

He wants to see the current colony remain in tact.

“They defend that piece of property,” he said, adding that if they were moved, another group would likely take over.

Before McGrath began taking cats to the vet, McGrath contacted Abbas Jafarnia, owner of the foundry, asking for his permission.

McGrath said Jafarnia was more than happy to allow McGrath on his property, and noted he had taken a few kittens home himself while Maritime Steel was operating.

While it’s not recommended to try to turn full-grown feral cats into house pets, kittens are easier to tame and socialize.

McGrath is not the only one who believes in the trap, neuter, release method.

The Nova Scotia SPCA supports groups and individuals using the TNR method, rather than eliminating or moving a cat colony.

The colony eventually disappears as the cats age.

McGrath welcomes anyone who would like to make a donation to his vet bills to drop by the clinic and speak to the front desk.

On Twitter: @NGNewsAmanda 

Organizations: Maritime Steel, New Glasgow Veterinarian Clinic

Geographic location: New Glasgow, Pictou County, Stellarton Road Ca United States

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Recent comments

  • Patricia MacNeil
    April 29, 2015 - 09:54

    Dear Mr. McGrath, I want to thank you for your kindness - I worked for Maritime Steel and found a few homes for cats that happened upon that group that were not feral, but I have been so worried about these cat's - a former employee told me yesterday that you were doing this - you kindness is unbelievable.

  • Barb
    March 03, 2014 - 12:42

    As an animal lover, and a member of Ca-r-ma, I love to hear stories such as this one. Thank you, Mike, for helping to improve the lives of these cats. Also, good to see your story published to create awareness of the plight of these animals. Keep up the great work !

  • ruth fraser
    March 03, 2014 - 10:51

    I am so glad the News covered this article. Mr. McGrath deserves praise and recognition for his concern and dedication to the feral cat situation at the MS location. I also have left food on numerous occasions for them and wondered how they would survive the cold weather. It is heart-warming to know that there are unselfish people like Mr. McGrath looking out for the needy and less fortunate felines in our community.

  • Kathy Sullivan
    March 03, 2014 - 07:46

    As member of Ca-r-ma, Pictou Chapter, I thank you so much for the great work you are doing so that feral cats can have a better life. I hope that more people will get involved in this great cause as there is a real need in all communities to help these kitties that suffer in many ways.

  • Nicole Burgoyne
    March 02, 2014 - 21:01

    Thank You for caring for these animals. It shows you have a big heart! My cats are rescued animals and everyone has to do their part! Please Spay & Neuter. Will gladly donate for this!!!

  • Ken Llewellyn
    March 02, 2014 - 18:36

    Awesome job a member of Ca-r-ma I know too well how important it is to control our cat population :-)

  • Helen Baudoux-McLaughlin
    March 02, 2014 - 18:32

    I am so pleased that Mike cares & realizes the value in maintaining these animals . He is helping greatly with bringing the cat population into balance with the community. T.N.R. ( trap,neuter/spay,return ) is a system that works well & I would like to commend Mike on his efforts . The kindness he has extended to these cats should not go unnoticed by the community & I hope that some others can help him in some way ( food , finances or offer to help trap or feed ) maintain this feral colony that is a part of our history just as the foundry itself is. My dad took kittens home to us as children from the foundry many years ago . I would bet lots of foundry kittens found homes over the years as ours did. Great job Mike !!!

  • Gwen
    March 02, 2014 - 18:02

    This man and his wife are very special people, we need more people like them that care for our 4 legged friends. I have 3 cats of my own and each one is very special.

  • Gwen
    March 02, 2014 - 17:53

    I would just like to say that this is one great man to care about our four legged friends. To bad there wasn't more like him in this world. I would like to say a big Thank you to him.

  • Jan
    March 02, 2014 - 17:46

    Mike and Janice - you two are amazing, what a wonderful thing to do for these cats, your community and for those who knew there was a problem but didn't make a move to help. Here is our opportunity. You're great citizens, thanks.