By Annabel Krupp
Anyone living in the North End, pretty much anyone living in Hamilton for that matter, have seen them. They stride through our backyards and along fences, they sun themselves on our porches, and they pee in our gardens. Colonies of cats seem to be pretty much ruling the neighbourhood these days.
On my block the cats are the talk of the street. Where did all these cats come from? Some say it was the house around the corner, others say it was the one down the street. Who is feeding the cats and are you in favour of that or not? Have you seen the skunk momma and her babies around the cat food outside the neighbour’s door? While most people have a soft spot for the hard lives these cats must lead, people are divided on whether they like having them around or not.
The North End neighbourhood is not alone. In a 2016 report the city estimated there are 133,000 cats in Hamilton. Keep in mind the number of people in 2016 was around 520,000. That’s a lot of cats for our city. There is even a Facebook Group called “Hamilton Street Cats” dedicated to them.
Where do these cats come from? Essentially, they are former house cats that get lost or abandoned. If not fixed these cats mate with others and a cat population can explode. Kittens not conditioned to human contact will become feral fearing human contact and the cats form colonies of 6-25 to survive essentially in the wild.
Something can be done however. The City of Hamilton and the SPCA do recognize this is a problem and have started a Trap, Neuter and Return Program (TNR). This humane program traps, neuters, vaccinates, ear-tips, and microchips the cat before returning it back to its neighbourhood. The obvious benefits are that it prevents the growth of the cat population, but it also improves the quality of life for the cat living on the street and reduces the annoyance to residents from females yowling and males spraying throughout the neighbourhood.
To access this program a resident first needs to become a registered Colony Caregiver with the SPCA. Colony caregivers must provide shelter, food and water on a daily schedule, and protect the cats from harm. With all the cats in the city however this program is busting at its seams trying to help as many colonies as possible. Alternatively, the SPCA is running workshops on TNR 101 and Shelter Building for the winter.
So what do you and your neighbours think about the cats? Anyone wanting to be come a Colony Caregiver can check out this link: http://hbspca.com/services/spayneuter/trap-neuter-return/