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Cat rescue group reports lower number of feral cats in Pictou

['The Society for the Friends of Ferals has been trying to help the feral cat situation in Digby County for more than 10 years.']
Feral cats – File photo

PICTOU

The Town of Pictou’s feral cat problem has drastically reduced over the years thanks to the work of volunteers.

Helen Baudoux-MacLaughlin, chairwoman of the Pictou County Chapter of Cat-Rescue Maritimes, told town councillors earlier this week that in 2011 the SPCA indicated that Pictou had the largest population of free-roaming cats.

So CARMA members went to work and concentrated solely on Pictou until 2016, she said, which has resulted in significant reductions in reports of the volume of colonies of cats, especially kittens, in the town.

“That allowed for Pictou over the last two years to become a maintenance site and, based on this success, allowed us to be able to expand to the rest of Pictou County,” she said.

Baudoux-MacLaughlin told council that over the past year there have been reports of new colonies in the Victory Heights area of Pictou and, if its funds allow for it, CARMA will be addressing it this year.

“The key to success in this endeavour is to keep the high-risk areas monitored and act upon them immediately.”

Cat Rescue Maritimes focuses on controlling community cat populations through a trap, neuter, and return (TNR) program run by volunteers working with property owners and neighbourhoods.

TNR has proven to be the only effective method of addressing the community cat overpopulation problem as attempts to remove or eliminate a community cat colony have been well documented as ineffective and results in the vacuum effect. The vacuum effect is a phenomenon scientifically recognized worldwide, across all types of animal species.

Once these cats congregate they form colonies which begin with one pregnant female who can produce at least a dozen kittens within a year. These kittens grow up to become feral cats unless exposed to people and socialized within the first few months of life. Feral cats are not suitable for adoption into homes yet, despite being feral, have the same needs as tame domestic cats, including the need to be spay/neutered.

Research has proven that a habitat will support a population of a certain size regardless of the number of animals removed; if resources remain, the population will eventually recover. Since formation in 2006, CARMA chapters have spay/neutered just over 20,000 cats, thus preventing two million cats from being born (to prevent 100 cats, just spay one). Animal welfare groups, towns, municipalities and community members must work together to make the spay/neuter of all cats a priority, the organization says.

Baudoux-MacLaughlin said CARMA has a strong volunteer base in Pictou, which it considers its flagship town. Volunteers consist of 11 adults and five children committed to a daily schedule of feeding for the Pictou cats.

She said the cost to feed the cats of Pictou for 2017 was $3,837. CARMA has rescued and rehomed 75 kittens in Pictou since 2011 and it has spayed or neutered 231 cats since this time. This represents 33 per cent of the cats that CARMA has spayed or neutered in all of Pictou County.

Cats can be impregnated three times a year and based on the mild weather this winter, she said it will be a three-kitten litter season.

Baudoux-MacLaughlin said the Town of Pictou has supported CARMA in the past and it hopes a similar grant will be part of its funding program. A large part of its funding comes from fundraisers hosted by volunteers.

Council made no recommendations on funding at the meeting, but did say it appreciated the work CARMA volunteers do in the town and s happy to see the results.

Upcoming CARMA fundraiser

CARMA will be hosting a fundraiser on April 7 from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. There will be a silent auction, 50/50 draw as well live music including Ian Kamp, Mike and the MacPhersons, The Leah and Kyle Collective, Hot Mess, and Double Jim and Tonic. There will be 50/50 draws and a silent auction. Donations will be accepted at the door.

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