Nova Scotia

Halifax funds 5-year project tackling feral cat 'crisis' in municipality

Animal rescue groups are applauding Halifax council's decision to fund a five-year program to trap, neuter, spay and return feral cats.

SPCA estimates there are 60,000 feral cats in the municipality, but program should reduce population growth

The SPCA estimates there are 60,000 feral cats in the Halifax Regional Municipality. (Feral Alley Cats)

Animal rescue groups are applauding Halifax council's decision to fund a five-year program to trap, neuter, spay and return feral cats. 

This week, council passed a motion to put $50,000 into the program each year for five years, for a total of $250,000. 

"That certainly is a positive step that HRM recognizes that there is a cat crisis and that spaying or neutering is the answer to resolve that cat crisis," said Heather Woodin, SPCA's trap, neuter and return (TNR) project coordinator.

Halifax council will spend $50,000 each year over the next five years to fix feral cats. (CBC)

'Never your average house cat'

Feral cats haven't been socialized with humans and are usually the offspring of a domestic cat that was abandoned or became stray. Woodin said they can't easily be domesticated. "The time and effort to socialize them would just be months, years. Even at that point, they would never be your average house cat," she said.

It's hard to count feral cats. The average female cat has a litter of four to six kittens once or twice a year. Last year, the SPCA surveyed caretakers — people who feed and care for feral cats — from across Nova Scotia and came up with about 60,000 feral cats in the municipality. 

Feral-cat colonies are more common in rural areas of Nova Scotia. (Nova Scotia SPCA)

Rural areas have more feral cats

Woodin said there are more feral cats around Musquodoboit and other rural areas, where people are more likely to abandon pets. That includes city residents heading out to the country to abandon cats. 

"You're going to find pockets of feral cat colonies all along there. We do see feral cats in the city, absolutely, born from offspring of abandoned cats. But, really, they grow into larger-sized colonies when you get into a little bit more of a rural area," she said. 

It costs about $60 to fix a cat. (CBC)

Woodin said TNR helps cats, the community and the people who care for the ever-growing population. She said for feral cats, it may be their only time getting medical care. 

"When they're out there having babies and breeding, there's a lot of noise and disturbance to the community. Fixed cats are better neighbours. There's less suffering because there's less kittens born into these conditions and these colonies and there's less disease," she said.

Surgery just the tip of the iceberg

Last year the SPCA, together with Spay Day HRM and other local rescue groups, received a grant of $50,000 to help spay or neuter feral cats. Working with those local groups, the SPCA fixed 780 cats. The SPCA estimates that prevented the births of 54,600 wild cats over the next three years. 

According to the SPCA, the TNR of 780 feral cats in 2016 prevented 54,600 unwanted cats from being born over the next three years. (Frank Eltman/Associated Press)

Each surgery costs about $60. The SPCA and Spay Day HRM have also bought live traps, food, supplies to care for the animals pre- and post-surgery, and transfer cages. 

It also takes volunteer hours and treating cats who have respiratory issues, flea infestations, or who need antibiotics and other medications. 

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