COVID-19: Feral cat numbers expected to explode, says B.C. animal welfare advocate Kathy Powelson

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      A B.C. animal welfare advocate is anticipating an increase in the number of feral cats because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

      Kathy Powelson, executive director of the Paws for Hope Animal Foundation, said that programs across the province that are meant to curb the population of feral cats have stopped due to the health situation.

      These programs are generally called trap-neuter-return, which animal rights advocates describe as a humane approach to the issue regarding feral cats.

      “The concern is that we will see a significant increase in the number of feral and free roaming cats because there's not going to be that spay and neutering,” Powelson told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview Monday (March 23).

      Powelson also noted that “as the weather gets warmer, we’ll see more kittens being born”.

      “And so there's going to be a significant increase in community cat population,” Powelson said.

      Feral cats are offsprings of abandoned cats.

      Feral cats have never lived with human beings and grow up fending for themselves.

      Powelson said that veterinary service is no longer available to spay and neuter feral cats because of the outbreak of the novel coronavirus.

      Powelson explained that trap-neuter-return involves trapping a bunch of feral cats, and getting them into a veterinary clinic for spaying and neutering.

      The cats are later released back to where they came from.

      Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Powelson said that veterinary clincis have put in place protocols to keep their staff safe.

      That means that animal welfare groups cannot have mass spaying and neutering anymore.

      According to the Greater Victoria Animal Crusaders, feral cats are a growing concern in cities.

      The group noted that feral cats multiply quickly, and can spread diseases to other animals.

      “Cats breed rapidly and one cat and its offspring can produce 420,000 cats in seven years, with two or three litters per year,” according to the group.

      According to the B.C. Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, a five-month-old kitten can start to get pregnant, and give birth to four offsprings.

      The BCSPCA notes online that there is strong public support for the non-lethal management of feral cats.

      The organization noted that trap-neuter-return programs have been increasing over the past 25 years.

      The BCSPCA also notes that owned as well feral cats have a “significant impact on wildlife by predating birds and small mammals”.

      The organization also reminds people that abandoning cats is a criminal offense under the Criminal Code of Canada and the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) Act.

      Powelson said that controlling the population of feral cats is a matter of animal welfare.

      “Having to fend for themselves is a very cruel life,” Powelson said.

      According to Powelson, some people think that feral cats can be left on their own, which she said is wrong.

      “Some people assume that cats can live on their own. But they're not. They're domestic animals. They're meant to be cared for by people,” Powelson said.