Just about every day these days Christy Moschopedis and Jill Robertson head out to check traps on a quiet Chilliwack cul-de-sac to see if they’ve caught another cat.
The two volunteers caught feline number 59 on Thursday in what is an out-of-control feral cat colony on this sleepy street.
“This population just exploded over the last two summers,” Moschopedis said. “It was a really, really bad kitten season. So many kittens and not enough organizations to be able to take care of them.”
Moschopedis and Robertson don’t work for the BC SPCA or even one of those organizations she’s talking about, they just love animals and are doing their part in the seemingly never-ending battle against the feral cat population.
They are following the policy known as TNR: that stands for trap, neuter, return. They humanely capture the cats in cages from this neighbourhood. The local branch of the SPCA is paying for them to be neutered, and Cheam View Veterinary Hospital is giving a good deal on the neutering. And then if the cats are truly too wild to be adopted, they are returned to the cul-de-sac, others are adopted or are in foster homes awaiting adoption.
By Nov. 29, of the 59 cats they had caught, 21 had to be returned and 42 have the chance of being pets. (The numbers don’t add up because one cat was pregnant.)
Some of those waiting adoption are at Heart and Soul Dog and Cat Rescue Society in Abbotsford, some at Vancouver Orphan Kitten Rescue Association (VOKRA), some at Cat Therapy and Rescue Society. Moschopedis herself has adopted one kitten, and its two siblings are at Chilliwack Animal Safe Haven.
And while Moschopedis and Robertson are doing this on their own, just because they can, there is also ABC Cat Rescue and Adoptions in Chilliwack that does similar work.
Carolyn Pinsent is someone else doing this work and founded a small rescue organization called Community Animal Projects.
“Hopefully, this is the right time to make yet another effort to resolve a perfectly resolvable situation, by implementing Trap/Neuter/Return programs in our community,” Pinsent said.
So is this feral cat colony on this one small cul-de-sac unique? Not by a long shot.
“There are so many properties around the area like this,” Moschopedis said. “I have friends that work on dairy farms and the farmers are taking care of feral colonies on their own dime.”
According to the BC SPCA, since female cats can breed three times a year and have an average of four kittens per litter. That means in just seven years, one unspayed female cat and her offspring could theoretically produce 420,000 kittens.
Chilliwack BC SPCA branch manager Chloé MacBeth says feral cat colonies are a huge problem in Chilliwack, for the SPCA but also for neighbourhoods, the environment, and of course the cats themselves.
“Feral cat colonies have a huge impact on our shelter because every year we have a kitten season or two – we have two kitten seasons right now – where we have tons of kittens being born,” MacBeth said in an interview at the branch on Hopedale Road.
“Orphaned kittens, kittens and moms that we have to bring into the sheltering system…. Our fostering homes are overwhelmed.”
MacBeth said the BC SPCA is looking for data so they can find out just how many colonies are out there, and how many cats they are looking at.
“Anybody who knows of a feral cat colony should contact the branch either through Facebook or email and let us know where the colony is and roughly how many cats are involved and generally what the health status is, and if they have a caretaker involved that is already taking care of them.”
As for Moschopedis and Robertson, they’ll continue to check the traps at the site in question in Chilliwack, although there are fewer and fewer to be found. Those truly feral cats that are returned have had one ear clipped – something that doesn’t hurt them – by the veterinarian so volunteers know the cats have been neutered.
“It’s insane how quickly they can overpopulate an area,” Moschopedis said.
How did this particular cat colony get so out of control? No one is certain, but a property owner told her somebody dumped an animal and she couldn’t find anyone to help out.
“There are always options, you don’t have to dump your cat. They’re not disposable.”