Local animal activists are on a mission to help feral cats and in a few hours on a recent weekend, 27 animals were spayed or neutered and given medical attention.
“The whole staff was so positive. We can’t wait to do it again,” said Dr. Erin Wilson of the Torbay Road Animal Hospital, which is associated with Sunrise Animal Hospital in Mount Pearl.
Wilson and other staff volunteered their time, while company representatives donated veterinary medical supplies, including vaccines.
There were 31 staff — including veterinarians and assistants — from the two clinics who helped out, said organizer Michelle Kerfont, a registered veterinarian technician.
The project first came about when animal advocacy groups such as Pleas for Paws, Mollie’s Dream NL, Cross Our Paws Foundation and some rescuers who work on their own, sought to get help for feral cat colonies that have sprung up on the Avalon Peninsula. The groups don’t want to say where the colonies are for fear that people will drop off unwanted cats at the locations.
The groups formed Colony Care a few months ago, approached some vet clinics and Sunrise responded right away, said member Jackie McCormack.
“There are many feral cats as the result of people not having spayed/neutered animals and letting them roam, as well as the unfortunate neglectful situations where we see cats that have lived as pets being dumped because they are pregnant, or the owners move and leave them behind or they are just not cute kittens anymore,” McCormack said.
The clinic was so successful, the plan is to do another one soon with the target of spaying and neutering 50 cats, along with giving them other needed treatment.
While it’s only a small number of cats compared to the many who are roaming wild, Wilson said it will help the situation.
“I think ultimately you can reduce the number of cats that have multiple kittens giving birth,” she said.
Wilson said staff didn’t know what to expect when dealing with the feral cats, but she and organizer Kerfont said the clinic ran smoothly and was done in less than three hours.
“We were helping out ones who would not normally get attention,” Kerfont said.
“It was a feel good thing.”
The volunteers working with Colony Care had organized the borrowing of recovery kennels, donations of foods and the volunteers trapped the cats and delivered the animals to the clinic.
The cats were then returned to their colonies.
“These cat colonies are growing too quickly for the sake of the colony and most are struggling with a lack of food and sickness,” McCormack said.
“What we have found is that most people do really care and try to help these animals, but the sheer size of some of these colonies leaves one feeling helpless.”
Caretakers have been looking after a number of the colonies, supplying food and shelter and alerting the advocacy groups when the cats need medical attention, McCormack said, adding those with caretakers have a better chance of surviving and not freezing to death over the winter.
“The support for this has been tremendous as people are starting to become aware ‘that old stray cat’ was probably someone’s pet a week ago and as well that it is really not that difficult to help once people work together,” she said.
Both Wilson and McCormack urge people to get their pets spayed or neutered. Wilson also said any donations towards the Colony Care group’s work would help.