Sunday, May 18, 2008

Fredericton continues to do things right - for feral cats

The Daily Gleaner up in New Brunswick has a super article about a fund raiser being put on by a group of people who have started a society to help with their trap neuter release program - one of the ladies in the photos is on the BOD of the Fredericton SPCA so the article caught my attention. It looks like a really good program, and they say they have opened up programs down here in Nova Scotia - I wonder where it is down here - here's the article:

The catastrophic event

is a fundraiser for Cat Rescue Maritimes (CA-R-MA) to support spay and neuter clinics for abandoned, stray and feral cats
All the cool cats and kittens will be heading to the Charlotte Street Arts Centre on Saturday, May 24, for an event that is promising to be the cat's pyjamas.

The CATastrophic Event is a fundraiser for CA-R-MA, featuring live entertainment, a pawsitively splendid silent auction, purrfect artwork and much more.

CA-R-MA stands for Cat Rescue Maritimes, an organization that began in the Sackville area in 2005 and has since grown to have registered charitable groups in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

"The concept that we operate under is trap-neuter-return," says Sharon MacFarlane, treasurer of CA-R-MA and chief trapper.

"It is a widely used methodology to control the population of stray, abandoned and feral cats."

Stray, abandoned and feral cats exist, largely because of people dropping them off, she says, but if they have food and shelter, the cats can live outdoors.

These cats can be found in the city, but they are mostly in rural areas, often making their homes at commercial site or in barns.

CA-R-MA, firstly, makes sure that the cats have adequate food and shelter. The volunteers also trap them and make sure the cats are spayed and neutered, then release them back to the site.

Usually some kindhearted people are feeding the cats, but they aren't in a financial position to have the animals spayed or neutered, so the cats keep producing kittens.

"At the SPCA, we have about 1,200 cats turned in every year," says Glenda Turner, who does media relations for CA-R-MA and is a board member with the Fredericton SPCA. "Our policy is not to take owned animals, so theoretically all of these animals are homeless."

While the shelter usually finds homes for 800 of these animals, approximately 400 cats end up being euthanized each year.

"Those are the lucky ones that get brought to the shelter," notes MacFarlane.

Many end up dropped off somewhere, usually in rural area, where they tend to live in colonies, often in family groups.

"There is usually a predominate male or two and the rest are female," she says.

In our climate, females are generally in heat three or four times during the season and have litters of three to five kittens. Then those kittens have kittens and so on.

"One breeding pair, over four years, with all their progeny, ... could have 20,000 other cats," explain MacFarlane.

To solve the problem, you need to start at the front end, which means not only educating people about this issue, but actively working to spay or neuter these homeless animals.

That's what the Fredericton chapter of CA-R-MA has been doing since it began in 2007.

"Between August and December, we TNRed (trapped, neutered and released) about 100 cats, of which almost half were kittens," says MacFarlane.

When the group first started, it wasn't working closely with the Fredericton SPCA, so CA-R-MA volunteers found homes on their own for the kittens.

The only reason a partnership with the SPCA wasn't already established is because the organization was so new.

"We were struggling to learn how to do this and we're gradually involving the SPCA more and more through advice and communication," says Ellen Levine, director of the Fredericton chapter of CA-R-MA.

It's a relationship that continues to grown.

"There is such an obvious link to the shelter," says MacFarlane. "We support each other very well."

Sometimes people don't understand why an organization like CA-R-MA is necessary, thinking the cats are doing fine on their own, but Levine notes that in rural areas, these aren't just a few pets here and there.

There can be 30 to 40 cats in a colony.

Volunteers will go into those areas and help the people who are taking care of these colonies. CA-R-MA works with dedicated local vets to get the cats spayed or neutered.

"But they have to be committed to continuing care, meaning stable environment, so there is proper shelter, and daily feedings and health checks, if they can handle them," says Levine.

She admits she doesn't like the word feral, as it is a scary word for a lot of people. She prefers to call the cat abandoned and stray, which many of them are. After all, while these cats are homeless, they aren't hopeless.

Sadly, many of these cats don't survive after they are dropped off in rural area. Some starve, some die because of the extreme temperatures, some are shot, poisoned or trapped, some are killed by predators and some are hit by cars.

"Their mortality rate is extremely high," says Levine.

It's very sad, but all the more reason to remind people of the importance of spaying or neutering the cats that do survive.

Last year, the spaying and neutering was done one or two cats at a time, which is time consuming, labour intensive and expensive. This year, the local CA-R-MA chapter plans to hold spaying and neutering clinics.

They got the idea, says MacFarlane, at a national feral cat conference she and Levine attended in Florida. While there, they got to take part in the clinic held at the veterinary school at the university.

"Now the numbers are huge," she says, as the problem with stray, abandoned and feral cats is much worse there. "In six hours, 15 (volunteer) vets and about 85 volunteers did over 250 cats."

It was an assembly line-type of operation, she says.

"If we can bring this concept to New Brunswick, we can increase our numbers and have a greater impact in a shorter period of time, with less money and less strain on the vets," says MacFarlane.

The veterinary clinics currently assisting the local chapter of CA-R-MA include Valley Veterinary Hospital, Islandview Veterinary Hospital and South Paw Animal Hospital.

"We won't be doing 250 cats, but we hope to do 40 cats," she says. "We'd do one clinic a month between May and October."

To be able to do this, CA-R-MA needs to raise money. That's where The CATastrophic Event on Saturday, May 24 comes in.

The fundraiser, being held at the Charlotte Street Arts Centre from 1-5 p.m., will be a great day for people of all ages who love animals.

"It will be a fair atmosphere with several things going on," says Levine. "There will be lots to do for adults and children."

There will be lots of entertainment, cat-related art on display, a silent auction, readings by different authors, goods to purchase for your furry friends, displays set up by groups such as the NBSPCA and Fredericton SPCA, cats courtesy of the Chickadee Cat Club and more.

Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for children, with all money raised going to support spay and neuter clinics for abandoned, stray and feral cats.

For tickets, call 457-0073 or 687-4227. To learn more about CA-R-MA, to volunteer or to donate, visit

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous11:34 AM

    These guys in Cape Breton do an awesome job:

    I've visited some of their colonies. They do great work doing mobile adoptions at the mall too.

    Leo rocks!

    ang & nelly