The Saint John SPCA Animal Rescue is planning to send 34 cats to the Atlantic Veterinary College in Prince Edward Island later this month to be spayed and neutered.

The proposal, which is being called Operation Catnip, is intended to spay and neuter felines for a fraction of the usual costs.

Melody McElman, the president of Saint John's SPCA Animal Rescue, said the inaugural trip to Prince Edward Island will happen on Jan. 19.

"This will benefit our cats in many ways because we'll have them altered and returned the same day and it will allow for us to get them adopted much quicker," she said.

The animal rescue organization has cages of cats in the shelter that are waiting to find a new home. However, the shelter isn't the only place that is packed with feral cats.

"We have a lot of cats in Saint John. You just have to take a walk downtown and see within a two block radius, you can encounter as many as 13 cats in two blocks," McElman said.

With so many cats already in the shelter and more roaming the streets, the organization created Operation Catnip.

'The big message is we're very interested in it. We're very excited about it but right now it's very conceptual. We're not sure if we can do it.'— Dr. Don Reynolds, Atlantic Veterinary College

The objective is to capture feral cats, ship them to the Atlantic Veterinary College then return them to the streets of Saint John.

It normally costs the shelter about $86 to spay a female cat and about $56 to neuter a male, but the college is charging $25 and $10, respectively, for the same service. 

Before the cats are sent to Prince Edward Island, there are still a few details to be ironed out.

Dr. Don Reynolds, the president of the veterinary college, said there are logistical problems to consider when moving wild cats from one province to another.

"The big message is we're very interested in it. We're very excited about it but right now it's very conceptual. We're not sure if we can do it," Reynolds said.

If the plan does move from the conceptual stage to a permanent program, the Saint John organization plans to set up traps around the city later this summer to catch feral cats.

Those cats will then be shipped to Prince Edward Island and fixed, then returned to Saint John and let loose back into the wild.