Meet the people saving stray cats in Villeray–Saint-Michel–Parc-Extension
'Seeing dead cats, it's really, really hard emotionally,' says Villeray resident Geneviève Szczepanik
It's dinner time at Geneviève Szczepanik's Villeray home, but there are other mouths to feed before it's her turn. As she pours kibble into metal bowls, five or six scruffy-looking cats enter her yard from the alley nearby.
"After a few days, if I haven't seen one, I start to get worried," said Szczepanik.
She isn't the only one concerned about the large number of stray cats in Villeray–Saint-Michel–Parc-Extension. This spring, the borough launched a program to trap, sterilize and care for stray cats, in partnership with the Montreal SPCA.
The goal is to keep the stray cat population under control, especially during the springtime baby boom. Recently, Szczepanik found a dead kitten on her back balcony.
"There was this tiny, little black [kitten], still attached to the placenta," said Szczepanik.
How to trap a cat — not so easy
The SPCA's program goes by the acronym TNRM, which stands for trap, neuter, release and maintain.
To trap cats, citizens like Szczepanik are provided with large metal cages, in which to place food. But not every cat takes the bait.
"Some cats even know how to get the food without closing the trap," said Szczepanik.
Szczepanik's neighbours have even adopted one of the cats, a feline they named Velcro because of her cuddly nature.
"She was always grabbing us, like, 'Just pet me. Love me, please!'" said Szczepanik.
Although the SPCA's program is just getting underway in Villeray–Saint-Michel–Parc-Extension, Szczepanik says some of her neighbours aren't happy about having a large number of cats living and eating near their homes.
"It's not the most wonderful thing when you garden and [have flowers], and cats start pooping everywhere," she said.
Borough Mayor Giuliana Fumagalli says she hasn't received any complaints about the program, which the SPCA currently runs in 12 boroughs across the city. Fumagalli has signed a two-year, $20,000 contract for the program, and she hopes many citizens take part.
"We see this as win-win. We make sure the cats are taken care of," said Fumagalli.
Citizens interested in participating in the program must get a form signed by their landlord, authorizing them to carry out trapping and feeding on their territory, and must receive training given by the SPCA.