This post was submitted as part of the Pet ‘Net Adoption Event 2008 to heighten awareness about animal shelter adoption.Please visit your local shelter, or Human Society location and ADOPT A PET if you can. Your continued support is essential to enhancing the quality of life for all animals and there are several ways you can help, besides adoption, which includes donations, fostering, volunteering, etc. Here’s HOW YOU CAN HELP support my local Winnipeg Humane Society. Thank-You. // HART
* Reprinted from The WHS – Winter 2006
by John Youngman
Almost every community has them. Stray cats. They live in riverbanks, abandoned buildings and under our front porches. We know them to see them. Some are the friendly, if scruffy, “neighbourhood” cats, not cared for by anyone in particular, who come around every so often for a free meal and a cuddle. Others are “feral” cats with wild temperaments. They are extremely wary of human contact and we tend to see them only fleetingly…that blur of fur doing its best to avoid human detection. While we as a community are making great strides in encouraging citizens to spay or neuter cats they own, stray cats are a different story. They contribute greatly to Winnipeg’s cat overpopulation, yet most of us feel powerless to stop them from producing litter after litter of unwanted kittens.
Until recently, solutions for controlling stray cats have consisted of either removing them from the community or euthanizing them. Neither has proven effective in controlling stray cat populations since new stray cats simply move in to replace the cats removed. “Trap, neuter, return” (TNR) programs have proven to be far more effective in reducing stray cat populations.
TNR involves three steps:
1. Trapping or otherwise catching stray cats and bringing them into the shelter for spay or neuter. In the case of “friendly” strays, this can be as easy as picking them up and putting them in a transport container. Feral cats, however, need to be trapped (The WHS will have traps available for loan in the coming weeks).
2. Veterinary intervention by one of our veterinarians. This includes spay/neutering, vaccination, identification and treatment for illnesses and injuries; and
3. Returning the cat to its home territory to be fed, sheltered and monitored on an ongoing basis by a dedicated caregiver. Releasing sterilized cats back where they were found not only stops them from reproducing, it also keeps them healthier. While TNR is still a relatively novel concept in Canada, it has been implemented in some communities in the United States, and is yeilding impressive results. One example is San Diego, California where, prior to the implementation of a widespread TNR program in 1992, more than 15,000 cats were killed each year in area shelters. It was then that the Feral Cat Coalition stepped in and managed to sterilize 1,500 cats per year. Four years later, local shelters were euthanizing 50% fewer cats. The Winnipeg Humane Society will sterilize stray cats for release back into the community free of charge, subject to capacity.
We provide this service (which will soon include lending out traps for feral cats) to help stray cats who would not otherwise be sterilized, thereby preventing unwanted litters. In order to qualify for our free stray cat program, the stray cats must be:
• Over four months of age;
• Friendly strays – cats who, although not owned, are socialized to people; or
• Feral cats – cats not socialized to human contact that have to be trapped.
To qualify for the service: You must be certain the cat is not owned and that your neighbours are “cool” with stray cats hanging around under your ongoing care. You must take responsibility for bringing in the stray cat, providing care during the period of convalescence following sterilization, returning the cat to its former territory and providing ongoing care (food and shelter during cold months).
You must also accept contingency plans for treatment of unforeseen illnesses discovered at the time of the sterilization. If a cat is found to be too sick to have surgery – or if during surgery the cat is found to have some illness requiring further treatment – then you must be prepared to treat as prescribed by the attending veterinarian or permit euthanasia. A cat may also be euthanized for biting a handler. After surgery, sterilized cats should be monitored regularly at the release site to detect any undesired effects of surgery. Because of the less-than-ideal recovery conditions, the risk of complications is higher. Ideally, cats should be held in confinement in the caregiver’s property for 24 – 48 hours after leaving the shelter to ensure they are eating and feeling well. With advance booking, cats can be dropped off at our Receiving Department between 8:30 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. Monday to Wednesday. Cats must be presented in a trap, vari-kennel or some other safe and secure container. To learn more about The Winnipeg Humane Society’s stray cat program, or to book a drop-off time for a stray cat, please contact the Receiving Manager, 204.982-2032.
John Youngman serves on the Board of Directors of the Winnipeg Humane Society and chairs its Social Action Committee.