By Janice Arsenault
Hamilton is home to approximately 40,000 community cats. A community cat, or feral cat as they are also known, are un-owned cats living on the streets that have had little to no contact with people. They survive on the streets of Hamilton living in family like groups called colonies. When cat colonies are left alone they continue to reproduce increasing the number of community cats in our neighborhoods. It is estimated that only about 2% of community cats have been spayed/neutered (Wallace and Levey 2006) and are the source of about 80% of the kittens that are born each year.
So what is the solution to this over population of community cats? The easiest solution is to have your own cats spayed/neutered and to keep them indoors. The Hamilton Burlington SPCA (HBSPCA) offers low cost spay/neuter clinics at a reduced cost. Some of these clinics offer this service at the low cost of only $20.00. You can find more information about their community assistance program on their website https://hbspca.com/services/spayneuter/
The population of community cats can be controlled and, in many cases reduced or even eliminated, by employing trap/neuter/return (TNR) programs. TNR is the trapping of community cats in humane traps, transporting them to a veterinary clinic where they are spayed/neutered, vaccinated, treated for any existing medical conditions, microchipped and then returned to the location they were trapped. TNR programs are a humane and effective way of controlling community cat populations. Many communities in Europe, the USA and Canada have practiced TNR for decades and studies show that these programs improve the lives of community cats, their relationship with the people who live near them, and will also reduce the size of the colonies over time.
What can you do to help? You can become a colony caregiver by registering with the HBSPCA by filling out the application on their website https://hbspca.com/services/spayneuter/trap-neuter-return/ Being a colony caregiver allows you to access their TNR clinics at a cost of $45.00 per cat. Being a colony care giver also comes with responsibilities including ensuring that adequate shelter is available for the cats, providing food and fresh water to the cats on a daily schedule and keeping feeding area clean, removing food dishes within 30 minutes of feeding to ensure wildlife (i.e. skunks) are not encouraged to enter the location putting the cats at risk, making sure the cats are protected from harm and no cat is removed from the colony or given to someone who may cause harm, injury, or death to the cat, making sure that an alternate caregiver is appointed in the caregiver’s absence, and consenting to twice yearly/periodic site checks by HBSPCA or City of Hamilton staff to ensure all guidelines are being met.
If you can not be a colony caregiver there are sill ways in which you can help the community cats. One way you can help is to come out to one of the shelter build days that the HBSPCA hosts each year. At these events shelters are made to keep the community cats in Hamilton warm in the cold winter months. These shelters are made using Rubbermaid totes, Styrofoam and straw. If you can not make it out to one of their shelter build days you can still help by donating any of the materials that are needed to build a shelter that can then be donated to a community cat colony in Hamilton that is in need of one. The next HBSPCA shelter build day is on Saturday September 22nd. The location of this event is 245 Datnall Road, this is also the location to drop off shelter building materials for donation.