The landfill outside Hudson Bay, Sask., has become a dumping ground for unwanted cats.
"This is common across Saskatchewan. A lot of dumps have cats who are dumped there like garbage," said Dolores LaPlante, the founder of Sask Alley Cats Association.
"The one foreman was telling me about people would put a box of kittens outside the gate of the dump and leave food for them. And the next day, the food is there but the kittens are gone. Most likely predators got them and killed them."
People from the small community have been feeding the felines and even created insulated shelters for them during the cold winter months.
Last week, the shelters were destroyed in the semi-annual burn of the wood pile at the landfill.
The fire jumped from the wood and spread to the cat dwellings. On the other side of the shelters, there were hazardous materials.
"They had to stop the fire before it got to the oil. So they ended up getting a bobcat to pick up the flaming shelters and pushed them into the burning wood pile," LaPlante said.
LaPlante predicts there are anywhere from 30 to 50 cats living in the dump near Hudson Bay.
"You don't see a lot of people dumping cats that are spayed or neutered," she said. "If we leave the dump as it is and out of those 30 cats, if 20 of those cats are girls and have babies, that's 100 more kittens born this spring."
Work begins to give cats a fresh start
After being contacted for help from a local resident, the Sask Alley Cat Association sprung into action.
They feared the cats could freeze and die as temperatures begin to get colder across the province.
"This is what we do," LaPlante said.
The province-wide no kill cat rescue plans on capturing the kitties and giving them medical attention.
LaPlante suspects many cats could have an illness or an injury caused by the fire in the dump.
The cats are already booked for surgery and will be neutered or spayed by Wednesday morning.
"Most of them, I imagine, are feral [and] the odd cat who was somebody's pet, who was domestic and left out there," LaPlante, who is also a veterinarian technician, said.
"Not every vet is comfortable holding a wild cat. Nobody wants to hold that angry 15 pound tom cat. That's my job."
After their surgeries, some cats will go to the Smeaton Cat Rescue to recover. LaPlante said they are still looking for farm owners who don't have cats already and are willing to house a few cats in their barns after surgery.
Once fully recovered, the feral cats will find homes on farms, acting as great pest control.
"Being wild doesn't mean you have to kill them," LaPlante said.
She also plans on meeting with the Hudson Bay town council to come up with a new policy to prevent cats from populating the dump again.
"People are still going to be irresponsible and dump cats there. There could be one or two stragglers that we don't manage to catch, so we need to come up with a long-term plan."