Nova Scotia

Purr-fect way to start 2020: Sold-out cat calendar raises funds for feral felines

It's the 11th year the Dockyard Cats calendar has been sold to help fund care for a group of feral cats at Halifax's naval base.

Because who wouldn’t want to look at cat pictures year-round?

Black Chin, one of the cats living at the HMC Dockyard in Halifax, poses next to the 2020 edition of the Dockyard Cats calendar. (Pierre's Alley Cat Society/Facebook)

The man who lovingly tends to a group of feral cats living at the HMC Dockyard in Halifax says he's sold out of the calendars that help fund his society's work.

It's the 11th year that Pierre Filiatreault created the Dockyard Cats calendar, which spotlights some of the furry felines living on the grounds at Halifax's naval base.

Filiatreault, who runs Pierre's Alley Cat Society, said he started the annual fundraiser more than a decade ago to help pay for the cats' needs.

"There was so much work to be done, and so many bills to pay, and the vet bills were pretty high," he said.

He wouldn't say how many calendars were sold this year, but he said proceeds from the calendars "sure help pay the bills."

Filiatreault is seen in one of the cat shelters at the Halifax dockyard in this 2017 photo. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

Filiatreault did most of the work to create the calendars himself, including taking photos of all the different cats.

Was it hard to get them all to pose?

"Not really," he said. "They're pretty easy to take pictures of."

Filiatreault has a lot of practice. He regularly takes pictures and videos of the cats at the dockyard to post on Facebook for the society's followers.

The Dockyard Cats calendars were sold on the Pierre's Alley Cat Society website as well as at a number of retailers in Halifax. 

Filiatreault, an ex-sailor who served in the navy for 31 years, has been looking after the feral cat colony for about 15 years. 

He's not sure how many cats there were to begin with — he estimates it to be more than 50 — but after he started a spay-and-neuter program in 2005, he believes there are now just over a dozen left.

The cat whisperer

Paula Filiatreault, Pierre's wife, described her husband as "the cat whisperer." She said he has special permission to visit the cats at the dockyard every day to feed them and make sure they're happy and healthy.

"Pierre has not had a vacation since 2005," she said. "This work was utterly out of passion and compassion for the cats."

Benny, a cat who was abandoned in Halifax’s north end and has since found a home, was one of the kitties featured in the calendar. (Pierre's Alley Cat Society/Facebook)

She said the calendar is the society's only fundraiser, and the proceeds also help support two other cat rescue groups in Halifax. 

The society also raises money to care for the cats through their Sponsor a Dockyard Cat program.

Over the years, some of the cats have become friendly with Filiatreault, while others are still shy. He cares about all of them.

"They don't have a voice, so I kind of speak for them and help them have a good life," he said.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alex Cooke

Reporter/editor

Alex is a reporter living in Halifax. Send her story ideas at alex.cooke@cbc.ca.

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