By Amy MacKenzie
STELLARTON – The issue of a growing number of feral cats in Pictou County continues to be a problem, but one cat colony in Stellarton is getting help from a concerned citizen who wants to solve the problem.
After reading an article in The News, Margie Garland, a well-known animal lover in the county, decided she was going to help by raising money to have them spayed and neutered.
So far, Garland has raised $445 and has spayed and neutered six of the cats in the colony and taken five of them into her home.
On Friday, she picked the sixth one up from the vet.
“There’s not much you can do other than trap them, neuter them and release them because these ones in particular, they’re not adoptable for homes,” she said. “As long as people are feeding them and they have a place where they’re able to get out of the weather, the best thing you can do is trap, neuter, spay and return them (to their colony).
Garland said she’s looking for other people in the community to help her fundraise to treat all the cats, “because the SPCA is full to the brim,” she said. “They can’t take any.”
Garland is pleased with the fact she’s already had six done but wants to see more help from the community.
“I think if people were more aware of the problem and if they’re willing to help with even a little bit of money to try to get the cats in their area spayed, it’s going to reduce their numbers and that’s the only way you’re going to get it managed,” she said. “ I know people want them euthanized but that’s not the answer. I’m not going to go around euthanizing cats just because there’s too many. I don’t believe in playing God.”
While Garland focuses on Stellarton, in Pictou, Lynn Plexman of Cat Rescue Maritimes, Pictou Chapter, says the town is in a crisis with the number of feral cats and tame cats she is seeing on the streets.
“We can’t afford to take in all the kittens and spay all the moms in this one neighbourhood, (the Heights) it’s out of control,” she said.
Plexman said when she moved to Pictou in 2011, “it was already in a state of crisis. The SPCA, we talked to them before we started our chapter, and they said the town had the worst stray and feral cat population in the county and the worst area was the Heights.”
She said the situation is only getting worse because Cat Rescue Maritimes is a trap, neuter and return program, but is limited by funds raised, which she says they’re low on. For tame, domestic cats they find on the streets, Plexman says they try to find foster homes for them until they can be adopted, but there’s a lack of those.
“In Pictou, the number of tame cats is very high, about 20 per cent in the Heights that we’ve dealt with. That’s very high and that’s because of people moving and leaving their cats and people dumping cats, abandoning them. They’re not a kitten anymore and they don’t want it or it’s pregnant and they don’t want it,” she said. “We can’t take any in right now because I don’t have foster homes and we need to build up our funding.”
Plexman said the only way the situation can come under control is if people become better educated about what it takes to be a pet owner before owning one, if residents donate money to the Cat Rescue Maritimes organization to help its work, and if municipalities take some responsibility for the growing population.
“The responsibility for stray animals falls upon the municipality,” she said. “But most municipalities are ignoring cats.”
Garland said anyone who wants to donate to helping her spay and neuter feral cats in Stellarton can go to the Facebook page called Spay a Stray, email firstname.lastname@example.org or make a donation at M&M Meats in New Glasgow. To make a donation to Cat Rescue Maritimes, Pictou Chapter, or to become a foster home or adopt a cat, contact the chapter at 382-2483 or email them at email@example.com. Donations to the Pictou chapter can be mailed to Pictou Carma, P.O. Box 84 Pictou, NS, B0K 1H0.