As relocation looms for Little Bay Islands, questions remain for its feral cats
Volunteers trying to ensure cats aren't abandoned as people leave by Dec. 31
In a little over two months, the people living on Little Bay Islands will be gone — but questions remain about who will care for the stray cats left behind.
The Notre Dame Bay outport community of 54 permanent residents voted in favour of accepting government financial relocation assistance earlier this year, meaning services like power and water will be cut off on Dec. 31 as people finish moving away.
But the island community contains almost as many felines as its soon-to-be former human inhabitants, and that has animal lovers are concerned about their fate.
"There could be around 40 to 50 cats left over there, and we've heard that at least five or six are pregnant now," said Sarah McLeod of the Exploits Valley SPCA.
"It's a lot."
McLeod said the cats that roam around the community are a mix of feral, "semi-feral" and tame animals, and residents often put out food and fresh water for them.
But once there are no people left, she's worried what will happen.
"Where will they find water in the winter? Where will they find their food sources? I don't think all of them are technically feral," she told CBC Newfoundland Morning.
"It just sounds like it's gonna be a terrible, slow, horrible dying out of them if they're all just left there, which we can't just let happen."
Carol Hull is one of the Little Bay Islands residents in the midst of moving, and said with a steady stream of people leaving the community over the years, people have sometimes left behind their cats.
Many of those animals have not been spayed or neutered, she told The Canadian Press, and the population of stray cats has steadily increased as a result.
She's been caring for the cats and accommodating adoptions when possible, but Hull said some of them are too wild to be taken into a home, and time is running out.
"I can't take them all with me," she said.
McLeod said Hull has been working with the Exploits Valley SPCA in Grand Falls-Windsor to arrange as many rescue and rehabilitations as they can, to keep the cats from being totally abandoned.
They've already taken in 14 cats and kittens from Little Bay Islands, which are all up for adoption now, McLeod said.
But that number of young cats points to the larger problem in Newfoundland and Labrador — and across the world — of feral cat populations, she added.
"Out of the 14 that we took in last time from Little Bay Islands, 11 of those were female. So just think if she [Hull] had left those 14 out there.… Four or five months in and they can start breeding, and imagine if each of those kittens, those 11, had kittens," she said.
"You can all of a sudden have 55 cats in just a matter of months. It can happen really quick with people being irresponsible … dumping them and leaving them to fend for themselves, all of a sudden they repopulate and it grows and grows and grows."
Owners should ensure their cats are spayed or neutered, especially if the pets are going to be going outdoors, she said.
And in the meantime, both McLeod and Hull hope to avail of some sort of further funding to help cover costs of going out to rescue cats, having them fixed, and then caring for them.
"The main thing to us is [to avoid] the destruction of healthy animals," Hull said.
"I'm willing to leave my new home, wherever, and come out here every day of the week as long as there's a rescue group on that boat with me."
McLeod said clearing up shelter space with adoptions would be a big help, too, considering how daunting a task the cat rescue on Little Bay Islands is.
"As one SPCA we don't have the manpower to go do that, especially on an island where you can't even go stay."
With files from The Canadian Press and CBC Newfoundland Morning