Spaying one cat at a time

New Glasgow resident caring for stray cats at Maritime Steel

Published on March 2, 2014

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.

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