Feral cats straying into communities
Gerald and Brenda Aylward of St. Brendan’s are self-described animal lovers, but some new felines on their property have recently caused them grief.
© Kevin Curley photo/The Packet
LITTLE WANDERER — The issue of feral cats is not unique to any one community. This photo of a cat wandering through a dumpsite was taken at the waste disposal site in Clarenville in 2013.
The couple’s problem began a several weeks ago when the town’s dump site was shut down as part of the provincial government’s initiative to close the 43 dumping sites in Central Newfoundland and Labrador.
Mrs. Aylward said after the government closed the St. Brendan’s dumpsite, feral cats did the feral cat strut throughout the community.
“There was probably a dozen cats or so,” she said. “It seemed like no one was paying attention to the fact the cats were here and their only source of food and shelter — the dump — was closed.”
In the spirit of giving, the couple decided to help out a family of cats that would have died inhumanely without intervention, said Mrs. Aylward.
“I said to my husband Gerald, ‘We’re going to have to start feeding these cats because we can’t just watch them starve.’ We started putting out food for them and then we had all the bitter snow and cold weather. The cats couldn’t even function or get around.”
The Aylward couple owns a farm that borders the old waste disposal site. A group of four to five cats took up residency under a shed on the couple’s property after their efforts to keep them alive until the cats could be dealt with humanely.
“However, it happened the female with kittens ended up under our shed, “ said Mrs. Aylward. “We think the rest must have perished from the cold or starvation because all we see are the ones we have.”
Their next effort was aimed at raising awareness about the issue in the community.
“We done what we could for the cats,” said Mrs. Aylward. “I put it on Facebook and a neighbour of ours donated some food to help feed them.”
The Aylwards then got in touch with the SPCA who provided the couple with a means of trapping the cats.
“They gave us four blankets and some cages for us to try and help catch them,” said Mrs. Aylward.
Ultimately, the couple would love to be able to afford cost of spaying and neutering the wild cats, she said.
“What we would like to do is for someone to take them in and have homes for them, but we don’t know if that’s possible. I think they’re going to be put down.”
Bonnie Harris, manager of the Gander SPCA, said the cats will be examined once they reach the shelter.
“If they are feral cats there’s a good possibility we will euthanize them,” said Ms. Harris. “If the cats can be placed, we will certainly try our best to place them in homes. We’ll assess them once we get them here at the shelter.”
Ms. Harris agrees with the Aylwards when it comes to releasing the cats back into the wild.
“People jump on the bandwagon to trap, neuter and release the cats but with our temperatures I don’t think that’s fair to the cats,” she said.
The Aylward couple has been instructed to catch the cats on their property and put them on the St. Brendan’s ferry crossing for the SPCA to pick up on the other side.
That’s not standard procedure, said Ms. Harris, but Mr. Aylward is a former volunteer with the SPCA and they trust him to do the job humanely, considering his love for animals.
It’s not a real good story. It’s an issue that brings a lot of human emotion into play. Ed Evans
Problem is not unique to one town
According to the SPCA manager, the Aylward’s problem is not unique to their area.
The region has been dealing with an issue of feral cats since the dumpsites have been closing in Central Newfoundland and Labrador.
“It’s definitely a regional problem,” said Ms. Harris. “We are getting calls from a dozen different communities with the same issue of feral cats and, honestly, the numbers are so large we just can’t deal with it all at once.”
The SPCA has already dealt with feral cats in a number of communities throughout the region.
“We’ve been into Fogo, Cottlesville, and we’re getting complaints from Dover, Hare Bay, Summerford and the list just goes on and on,” said Ms. Harris.
The cost of euthanasia and vet bills is covered through fundraising, donations, adoption fees and Central Newfoundland Waste Management, which will cover the costs of dealing with the cats on the Aylward property.
Ed Evans, manager of CNWM, said the company has been dealing with issues with feral cats since the province has been shutting down waste sites in the central part of the island.
“We deal with the SPCA and they’ve been taking care of that matter for us,” said Mr. Evans, noting the SPCA deals with the cats in a humane way.
The provincial government provided funds to the CNWM to deal with issues such as rodent and feral cat populations.
“We’ve had some assistance from the province as a part of the close-out process,” he said.
Mr. Aylward notified the CNWM about the feral cat problem in St. Brendan’s.
“It’s only been in the last couple of weeks that it was indicted there was a feral cat issue out there,” said Mr. Evans.
The CNWM manager agreed with Ms. Harris and said there is a problem with feral cats in the region. Both the SPCA and CNWM want to make sure the problem is dealt with in a responsible manner.
“When the issue of feral cats came up we put a process in place with the SPCA to take care of that issue,” said Mr. Evans. “We’re dealing with the issue in the most humane way we know.”
Whenever there’s an issue with the cats CNWM is notified and the company consults with the SPCA to resolve the issue.
“We don’t deal with it directly, we go through the SPCA,” he said, stating the SPCA is known for its humane treatment of animals.
The emotional aspect of the issue is not lost on anyone, said Mr. Evans.
“It’s not a real good story. It’s an issue that brings a lot of human emotion into play.”