Soaring numbers of stray cats across the region are raising concerns amongst both residents and officials with local animal shelters.
“Basically, the cat population has exploded,” said Michelle Fisher, a member of the board with Animal Haven Rescue. She also serves as treasurer and cat coordinator for the organization.
She said the problem sometimes goes unnoticed because the cats are often in alleys or under sheds for example – they aren’t necessarily out in the open.
“But you do see them everywhere – a lot in the industrial areas, under sheds and in backyards. One of my board members got a call about a cat and her kittens running around on Highway 56.
“They heard a kitten crying, and it was stuck in this mesh covering that was protecting some equipment. He had somehow gotten his paw through it and stuck. They cut him out of there, but he had been there for some time because they rushed him to the vet, and there was stuff embedded in his leg that had cut off the circulation. They had to amputate his leg the next day,” she explained.
“He’d been suffering for awhile, but it’s a busy area so probably nobody heard him,” she said. “But in the last few days, we’ve gotten calls about moms with litters. It’s everywhere. The County is just as bad if not worse, too.
“There are people who are feeding 30 to 40 cats on their farms.”
Often, some of the cats are just dumped off on or near a rural property. “It’s actually illegal to do that – it’s illegal to abandon animals. And killing other people’s cats is also illegal under the Criminal Code.
“So the farmers get frustrated, and rightly so.”
Fisher said that Animal Haven of course encourages the spaying and neutering of pet cats.
“We are really a small rescue. We have foster homes, but we don’t have a facility or a shelter. But our foster homes are full – we have multiple cats with our foster homes.”
Sometimes, cats are also abandoned when someone moves away as well.
“We got a call a little over a week ago from a gentleman whose neighbour had left the farm with at least 30 cats there,” she added. “Some of them are injured, some are sick. Some of them are also so friendly! They would crawl into your lap and purr.
“We are going to vet them all, but it’s expensive. It’s just so preventable, and it happens all over. And it’s not just Stettler – it’s a world-wide thing,” she added.
As mentioned, spaying and neutering won’t quickly wipe out the problem, but it’s a place to start.
And while it isn’t inexpensive, Fisher said she knows that some vets do what they can to help people out.
“There are different programs that people can take advantage of to help pay for the procedure,” she said. And even just one animal at a time helps.
“If you bring in one cat, you are saving two to five litters a year. So it’s little by little – bit by bit,” she said, referring also to what’s known as the Trap, Neuter and Return programs that are up and running in some regions.
“If cats are fixed, and they have access to food, water and shelter, they do really well. They will kill all of your mice for you – they will live a happy life because they aren’t having babies, the male cats aren’t roaming around fighting and getting injured – it’s just a much calmer situation,” she explained.
But as she mentioned, a lot of it comes down to cost.
“We haven’t quite figured out how to fix that,” she said.
Still, it’s one step at a time. “All rescued animals – they are getting fixed,” she said.
Fisher said that cats can produce up to five litters per year. Each litter can have five to seven kittens.
“If you have male and a female, and you didn’t alter them or any of their future offspring – in seven years you would have about 407,000 cats. It’s huge!”
Fisher also wanted to point out that the Town of Stettler does have a bylaw regarding cats.