By Andru McCracken

Dexter the cat has been missing since October 25. /SUBMITTED

Four families’ cats are believed to have been trapped and set loose miles from home in the wild. The cats all lived within a one block radius and for at least one of the pets it proved a death sentence.

Erica Innes believes she has lost two cats in this way. Dexter, who is white from head to toe, went missing on October 25. He hasn’t been seen since.

Her family’s other cat, named Sookie, was recently discovered in Cedarside, hungry but alive.”  Dexter, Innes believes, is not so lucky.

Innes said the loss has hit her family hard.

“I love my cats, they are part of the family,” said Innes. “But for my kids, it’s something different.”

Innes’ daughter Jorja was very close to Dexter.

“It was her cat. She literally carried the cat around in a blanket everywhere she went,” said Innes.

She recalled a time when Jorja fell down the stairs, she didn’t let go of the cat on her way down and ended up breaking bones.

“Even when she fell down the stairs, she had him in her arms,” said Innes.

Innes said her kids are devastated at the loss of Dexter.

“They can’t find him, they can’t fix it. They know that something has probably killed Dexter and that he was cold and lonely and scared out there by himself,” she said. “It’s hard for them to process that.”

Innes said that when people trap and release cats in the wild they are causing untold harm.

“They are crushing their neighbour’s children’s hearts.”

Innes said she is willing to work with neighbours to install deterrents.

“I have found cat feces in my garden and it’s not nice,” she said.

“I understand both sides of the argument,” said Innes. “People don’t like having cat feces in their gardens… I have it in mine.”

She said that her next door neighbour has an amazing garden, so Innes installed a motion sensor sprinkler to deter her cat.

“There are so many options,” said Innes. “The bylaw officer is willing to help anybody that wants help with this.”

Chris Dolbec is the Bylaw Officer for Valemount, and for her part, Dolbec said she is ready to intervene at anytime in animal disputes, but she needs to know about it.

Dolbec believes that the cats were live trapped and released in the woods, about 20 km from Valemount.

Sharon Lynn Catto found a cat from the same one block area at the 10 km marker on Kinbasket Reservoir.

Baxter was the first cat rehomed by the Robson Valley Spay and Neuter society and a bit of a celebrity.

But two weeks on his own in the woods cost him his life.

“He was just pure bones,” said Catto. “He’d been two weeks in the woods and it was amazing he had survived that long.”

Catto said he slept in her bed until the owner came the next day.

“He just melted into my arms and stayed in my arms all night,” she said.

Baxter was returned to his owners to their amazement, but soon after died.

“It’s so sad,” said Catto.

If you trap a cat on your property, Dolbec wants you to call.

“It goes to the impound and we will advertise the cat,” said Dolbec. “If it is a stray we work with the Spay and Neuter Society.”

Dolbec said pet owners are fined unless it is a first offence.

“You would much rather have me trap your cat and pay a fine than the alternative,” said Dolbec.”  “People need to take this seriously.”

Dolbec, an animal lover, and founder of the Robson Valley Spay and Neuter Society, is appalled at the thought of a family pet slowly starving or dying in the wild.

She said both pet owners have a responsibility to keep their pets out of other people’s yards, and those people who are being affected by the pets need to engage the village before taking action into their own hands.

“If you have issues call me or call the village,” said Dolbec.

She’s frustrated that the discourse on social media is that bylaw doesn’t react to animal concerns, she said that whether it is barking dogs or nuisance cats, she is ready to act.

“I can only respond if I am aware of it. That is what it comes down to,” she said.