New group tackles cat colonies

A new non-profit is hoping their work will quell a growing number of cat colonies and unwanted kittens in the valley.

The Robson Valley Spay and Neuter Society formed last month after several residents decided to pool their efforts with local veterinarians.

The group’s work is already cut out for them: one feral cat colony in Tete-Jaune grew to around 80 cats, before the property holder recently asked a neighbour for help. That neighbour, Chris Dolbec, has joined forces with other concerned residents to help keep situations like her neighbours from spinning out of control.

The society’s mandate is “supporting a healthy community by caring for its animal population.” Society member Neysa Weatherbee says in practical terms they hope to employ a system dubbed “trap, neuter and release” which has worked to stem a colony of Seattle dock cats, for instance.

Feral colonies that are not kept in check can grow exponentially, causing health concerns for the cats and for humans when the colony creates unsanitary conditions. Weatherbee says it’s a myth that feral cats have a higher infection rate than domestic cats, however – in some cases it can be lower. When the cats are not competing with each other for shelter and food, they can happily live out their lives semi-wild, but usually still in close proximity to humans – the natural habitat for cats, according to Alley Cat Allies, an animal rights group. The species Felis catus came into existence 8,000 to 10,000 years ago when humans shifted from hunting and gathering to farming. Initially attracted by grain stores with plentiful rodent populations, cats have been living side by side with humans ever since.

Weatherbee says it’s very difficult to impossible to domesticate a cat once it has gone feral or has been born semi-wild. What people can do, however, is prevent a feral colony from growing by neutering/spaying the cats before releasing them back outdoors, or adopting them out to become “barn cats.”

She says most of the colonies in the Valemount and Tete-Jaune area are on private residences and many property owners are attached to their cat colonies.

“They don’t want to see their cats gone – it’s part of their whole psyche.”

Weatherbee says killing cats is actually not as effective as neutering and releasing the cats back into the wild, since killing them creates a void that is often filled by other animals.

While neutering/spaying benefits both humans and animals, Weatherbee knows they will encounter opposition among some people who believe allowing animals to breed is the most humane and natural thing to do.

Weatherbee says that simply isn’t true, citing statistics that show cats are healthier, are better behaved and live longer when they do not consume that energy breeding.

While she says the group will be focussed mostly on cats, they will also handle stray dogs. They hope to network with residents between Valemount and Tete-Jaune to find adoptive and foster homes for rescued animals.

They are a 100 per cent volunteer organization that will rely entirely on donations and fundraisers.

If you know of a stray, abandoned or feral animal that needs shelter or spay/neutering, contact the Society by email [email protected] or by phone 250-566-4714. For emergencies contact the veterinarian 250-566-4194.