I’m a middle aged grandmother, not a feral cat expert, but its clear that there is no “one size fits all” solution to the stray cat problem in Nova Scotia. I’m fifty four years old and it has been my experience that things are never that neat and simple.
To start with, there are such a wide variety of strays:
- adults who have been recently dumped or abandoned
- first generation strays who have survived on their own for a while
- the offspring of the stray momcats who are supported by a caretaker
- second generation strays who live in the wild without any human assistance, and last but sadly not least
- the kittens that were born to a domestic pet and then dumped or abandoned
Coming out of the gate, its clear any solution has to start with stopping the dumping. What would that take?
- an education campaign that would be supported by animal clinics to promote early age spay / neuter. Even in this day and age, there are still many good people who don’t understand the health benefits and cost saving with this
- Promote spay and neuter benefits in the free online ad sites
- a low cost / high volume SNAP of course
- a road sign campaign in rural areas reminding people it is illegal to abandon animals.
- Where possible, rescue groups and shelters to take owner surrendered kittens and puppies if the owner will keep and spay the mom
- Approach the Guides and Scouts about starting a Kindness campaign
- The RCMP should at least be asked if they would be willing to do (and fund) an ad that stated that it is illegal to abandon animals. Being reminded of that by the RCMP could be a big deterrent.
The second thing of course is to promote pet adoption. First generation strays and feral kittens are great candidates for pet adoption. In addition to the great things that different groups and rescues are already doing, its time to look at:
- off site adoptions. If Pet Projects can get over half of its adoptable cats and kittens adopted in a little fire hall well off the beaten path, just imagine the possibilities for success elsewhere.
- more adoption incentives. Build on the success of the November Adopt a Senior Month and the Home for the Holiday’s program. SHAID’s Senior to Senior special is another good example. There is still considerable resistance to adoption incentives by groups who feel they ‘cannot afford them” With a proven track record of drawing attention and boosting all their adoptables, how can anyone afford NOT to?
- It would not cost the society anything to use its influence with provincial papers to post petfinder widgets for Nova Scotia Adoptable Pets in their online editions
- Nor would it cost anything to entice the same widgets to be posted on different government websites, from the municipalities up to the provincial level.
- Feature a pet of the day on the society website. No word of a lie, the site traffic for the homeless pet site doubled when I did that.
- Develop a logo for NS pet adoption and encourage NS businesses to include it in both their paper and online sales flyers
The third thing is to establish some protection for feral cats:
- municipal ‘at large’ bylaws need to be addressed to protect both the cats and the caregivers of tended cat colonies.
- municipal websites need to address the misconception that wild feral cats are somehow less deserving than any other wildlife. For instance, when I had a bank beaver last spring in the upper pond, I could go to the Natural Resources website. Not only do they make it clear that they do NOT interfere with wildlife, but they offer tips for living with them.
In the fourth place, funding has to be made available for people to vaccinate and spay or neuter the stray cats they start feeding. These are hard times and, while people want to be kind, very few people have the personal resources to do the initial ‘start up”. That way they can be part of the solution instead of adding to the problem.
Last but not least, some otherwise very intelligent and compassionate people do terrible things to strays because they are utterly unawakened to feral cat issues. How can that be changed? Use a fundraising campaign to heighten awareness. After all, most of the things that need to be done will need money.
- Pick a spokescat
- Designate a Stray Cat Day for NS
- Hold province wide Flealess Markets to get attention,
- but the real money will come from tickets on donated prizes and/or services
- Get the word out with a website that can also be used both to publicly acknowledge support from businesses and to instill interest for the next year’s campaign
- And of course, the campaign itself can be a media event, from start to finish, at milestones along the way.
Like the old poster in my laundry room says “Do something! Lead, follow or get out of the way” We will never get to No Kill Nova Scotia until everyone understands what should have been obvious in the first place – that stray and feral cats are living breathing sentient beings need our protection and support and are not a nuisance to be squashed and set aside.
The process of creating a meaningful solution for stray cats will also map the way for future endeavors. At the end of the day, we may all be moved by compassion, but it will take cooperation to truly get to No Kill Nova Scotia