Coalition comes together for Surrey cats

SURREY — Tens of thousands of cats are roaming the streets, parks and neighbourhoods of Surrey and some pet owners are at fault.

The Surrey Community Cat Coalition was formed earlier this month, in time for Feral Cat Day (Oct. 16), with the plan to get ahold of what they call the “overpopulation of cats” in the city.

It is estimated that Surrey has between 12,000-34,000 free-roaming community and feral cats.

Rodney Weleschuk, the BC SPCA Surrey branch manager, said one way the coalition aims at maintaining the number of cats in Surrey is by “catch-and-releasing” community and feral cats.

During the catch phase, the SPCA will get the cats neutered or spayed to prevent them from reproducing as well as addressing any health issues they may have.

“One way we wish to address the feral cat overpopulation issues is to provide them with the best care we can,” Weleschuk said.

The coalition — composed of Surrey Animal Resource Centre, BC SPCA Surrey Education & Adoption Centre, VOKRA, Semiahmoo Animal League Inc., Katie’s Place and Paws for Hope Animal Foundation — was influenced by a similar group back east, the Toronto Feral Cat Project, and is the first of its kind in the province.

Kim Marosevich, the city’s bylaw business operations manager, said before the coalition formed, separate entities were trying to tackle this problem.

The Vancouver Orphan Kitten Rescue Association (VOKRA) has been rescuing cats since 2008 and noticed that their intake of Surrey cats increased by 15 per cent from 2012 to 2013.

Now that several stakeholders have come together, Marosevich is optimistic they will be able to control the population of cats in Surrey.

“The problem is not new. The situation is not new, but I think our approach collectively is new and I think that’s the really key part,” she said.

Both Weleschuk and Marosevich say the problem gets worse when pet owners allow cats that haven’t been neutered or spayed to go outside. Those cats have litters with other community or wild cats.

“They are contributing to the overall overpopulation of cats by producing unwanted litters. Most of the unwanted litters are the cats who end up unsterilized in the wild,” Weleschuk said.

“Sometimes people don’t recognize that behaviours that are problematic to people in cats are often triggered by their sexual status. They’re sexually reproductive behaviours, (like) yowling (and) scent marking,” said Marosevich.

She said these habits go away once the cat has been neutered or spayed.

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