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Cat-astrophe as feral feline rates climb

By Aaron Wilgosh, The Graphic

Loose and feral cats are an issue in communities like Portage la Prairie and Oakville recently as trap-neuter-release programs are starting to rise. (file photo)

Loose and feral cats are an issue in communities like Portage la Prairie and Oakville recently as trap-neuter-release programs are starting to rise. (file photo)

It’s almost like a scene out of a Hitchcock film.

Stray and feral cats are becoming a problem around communities like Oakville and Portage la Prairie and work is being done to curb the issue with the implementation of trap-neuter-release programs and reduced veterinary fees.

“Due to the population increase, we’ve been having more and more cats picked up in Portage la Prairie and it’s causing issues with storage,” says Portage Fire Chief and director of public safety, Phil Carpenter. “In the fall, we had over 20 cats in our system for a couple months and that’s not fair to the animals."

The city is currently working to educate the public about keeping cats indoors and getting them spayed or neutered with the help of PAWS (Portage Animal Welfare Society) and plans on launching a trap-neuter-release program in the spring.

The community of Oakville is experiencing similar issues which sparked the launch of Project Echo-Feral Cat Consulting, a non-profit organization that takes a pro-active approach to the cat overpopulation problem in Manitoba.   

“Right now we’re working on a colony in Oakville,” says Tara Janeczko, President/Founder of Project Echo-Feral Cat Consulting. “We’ve brought in 14 cats through trapping and two of the cats picked up were gentle enough to be adopted out to homes while the rest were released to their colony.”

The organization formed a partnership with Gladstone Veterinary Clinic to offer low-cost spay/neutering for cats because of the issues occurring in Oakville, and more recently, here in Portage. 

“We partnered with the Gladstone Vet so we can offer this to everyone and anyone," adds Janeczko. "Individuals are only required to fill out an application and waiver form, along with a small prepayment prior to the appointment being booked at the clinic.”  

The cash prepayment includes anesthetic, surgery, antibiotics, post-op medication and tattoo. The cash prepayment for neuters is $60 and for spays is $110. 

Judy Hughes with PAWS agrees there has been an influx of stray cats within the city limits however these cats aren’t feral.

“It’s because cats are loose and not fixed,” says Hughes. “People are leaving their cats outside for extended periods of time and sometimes the moms will give birth outdoors. People aren’t taking care of their pets the way they should.”

Although Animal Control employs several measures to prevent the euthanization of animals in its care, the influx of cats the city has seen has forced the city to stray from its 'no-kill' philosophy. Some municipalities have bylaws in place that prevent the execution of animals held in shelters, however, such regulations don't exist in Portage la Prairie. 

Project Echo-Feral Cat Consulting and PAWS both encourage anyone with a cat that needs to be spayed or neutered to take advantage of the Feb. 15 session at the Portage Mall. The event runs from 5:30-7 p.m.

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