The looming cold weather will hinder the fight to control the overpopulation of feral cats in Toronto, experts say.
“We may start up earlier than we planned depending on the gathering of more information on the releasing of these cats after they’ve been sterilized,” TAS manager Eletta Purdy said. “We’re just concerned. We wouldn’t want to see them be released back into the cold and suffer because of the surgery.”
Purdy says the clinic will run until mid-November and is slated to re-open in January. They’re re-evaluating their trap-neuter-return (TNR) strategy, in which feral cats are castrated and then returned to their colonies.
The shelter is being renovated because they can’t afford to have a new building. Purdy says the city pays for staff, and supplies are bought with donations.
“If we want to expand it, we’ll have to look at donations for staffing also,” Purdy said. “Hopefully [donations] will start to go up and then we’ll be able to continue with the clinic. But right now we’re O.K. for this year.”
Kathy Quinn, a TAS supervisor, says the service is “the first of its kind in Canada.”
Since 2008, the Toronto Feral Cat Project (TFCP) has also helped in the fight to control the overpopulation of Toronto’s feral cats.
The organization’s goal is to educate the public on the TNR strategy, as it’s the only proven method of long-term population control, said Roxanne St. Germain, a public relations and education officer of the TFCP.
She says TNR is the most humane way to deal with feral cats, as all of them can’t be rescued since they are too many. As well, most are not “sociable,” and so they can’t be adopted.
St. Germain says the opening of the spay and neuter clinic is a “huge step for the city of Toronto.” People are taking advantage of it since it’s a financial burden to feed and castrate cats.
“There are so many people calling trying to get appointments to trap and bring their cats in for spay and neuter at that clinic,” St. Germain said. “So it’s really important that we put pressure on the city of Toronto to fund this solution because it’s the only solution that will work.
“It’s really important that the city councillors and the new mayor really take this as an important issue and really allocate some funds and an ongoing commitment surrounding feral cat clinics at the Toronto Animal Services.”
Feral cat caretakers have to register their colonies on the TFCP’s website and take TNR training sessions to be eligible to go to the TAS’ free clinic, St. Germain said.
The TFCP works closely with the Toronto Humane Society, which held an event on Oct. 16 for National Feral Cat Day with workshops to teach people about TNR.
“It’s really important that everybody works as a community,” St. Germain said. “You need people, you need organizations, local communities, districts, and the city to be involved. It’s a right-across-the-board project.”
She says there are workshops as well as support groups.
“[People] can join and it’s really beneficial because it’s very stressful to take care of a colony of cats,” St. Germain said. “You have to be there every day. It’s financially stressful, it’s a time constraint, emotionally very hard on a lot of the people who take care of these cat colonies, because cats are just vulnerable and they get killed and they get hurt and they get sick.”
The organization has a Toronto feral cat survey and they’re asking people to register colonies on their website, which is kept confidential, as they’re trying to find out how many cat colonies exist in Toronto. She says it’s also a way to back up their claims when they ask for funding from the government.
St. Germain says the TFCP is in the process of deciding whether it will become a charitable organization or non-profit group.