SPCA tackling feral cat overpopulation

East Kootenay branch implementing spay and neuter program to deal with wild, undomesticated cat population.

The B.C. SPCA East Kootenay branch is hoping to implement a spay and neuter program to deal with a feral cat overpopulation.

The B.C. SPCA East Kootenay branch is hoping to implement a spay and neuter program to deal with a feral cat overpopulation.

Looking around Cranbrook, you might not think there is a major feral cat problem.

But there is, according to the B.C. SPCA East Kootenay branch.

Feral cats are different from your regular housebound feline as they are born ‘in the wild’ and are not domesticated or habituated to human contact.

What makes it problematic is the population—or overpopulation—of feral cats in the community, according to Brenna Baker, the SPCA EK branch manager.

“It is quite high for our population in the City of Cranbrook, there are a lot of feral cats. some of them are looked after by people who feed them and other ones are just free roaming and kind of fending for themselves,” Baker said.

“There are cat colonies, which means there are groups of cats living together and it’s and they’re wild.

“…There’s the odd domesticated cat in those colonies, but there are very few and what’s happening is they keep breeding and reproducing and it’s getting out of control. It does cause a a nuisance for people when they’re not managed properly.”

The SPCA recently received an $84,000 grant for spaying and neutering and are hoping to tackle some of the feral cat colonies. They are implementing a TNR—Trap, Neuter, Return—program as funding allows as a way for population control.

Baker says that if feral cats are removed or euthanized, more will always come as cats can have up to three litters a year.

“I know a lot of people think that if you just get rid of these feral cats, that would solve the problem, but it would actually make it worse,” she said.

Baker said she is aware of four colonies in Cranbrook, but knows there are probably more. Even though feral cats are undomesticated, sometimes there is a human caretaker for the colonies who feed them and take care of them.

“I visited a colony last night and it’s very well looked after, they have not been able to spay and neuter because it’s expensive and they’re not their cats, they’re un-owned cats, but they’re looking after the colony and the cats look really healthy.

We’re going to go in and spay and neuter them because they just keep having kittens,” said Baker.

“…There is one colony that we’ve’ started to do TNR on and it’s in the yard of a business, so the caretaker noticed that one cat was sick, so we ended up trapping that one and getting it to the vet, just to make sure it wasn’t something that was going to spread through and get into people-owned cats and get them sick.”

Because the cats are undomesticated and raised in the wild, the SPCA shelter can’t take them in because they can’t handle cages and kennels, said Baker.

“They are completely wild and will bite and scratch and they are dangerous, some of them,” said Baker. “A lot of the feral colonies, they’ve been born into that, they’ve never been in human contact. If you put them in a kennel or a cage, they go absolutely ballistic.

“We’ve had cats that try so desperately to get out that they can rip their teeth out, or their claws out. And if they get out, and get into this building, it’s absolutely crazy.”

Some municipalities have passed spay and neuter bylaws that help with cat over populations, which, in addition to overpopulation, also cuts down on cases of feline aggression and hostility.

When colonies have been treated with TNR, the vets snip the tip of a cat’s ear, while it is still sedated, as a visual indicator of whether a cat has been spayed or neutered.

However, Baker urges the public to call the shelter if they notice any feral cats or a feral cat colony, which set up shop in places like abandoned houses or sheds.

“If you come across any, call the shelter and then we can look into it and see what’s going on. I think people really need to understand that by just removing the cats or euthanizing them is not going to solve the problem,” she said.

To contact the BC SPCA EK branch, call 250-426-6751 or email at eastkootenay@spca.bc.ca