By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express
A two-year pilot program to manage the city’s feral cat population has received approval from a collection of councillors at a joint meeting of the community and corporate services committees on Nov. 20.
The Trap Neuter Return Manage (TNRM) program, which works to keep feral cat populations from getting out of control, will operate on a two-year term through Oshawa’s Animal Services and will include a registration process for current cat colony caretakers and a public education campaign.
If left unchecked, a feral cat colony starting with only 12 cats could explode to more than 11 million in eight years as the cats breed and the group expands exponentially. It’s believed there are more than 100,000 feral cats roaming the streets of Toronto, according to numbers from the Toronto Cat Rescue.
In the City of Oshawa, it’s estimated there are approximately 15 colonies of feral cats across the municipality.
In recent years, issues posed by feral cats and their blooming populations has forced many cities into action, and with euthanization practices becoming widely condemned by members of the public, municipalities have been searching for answers to the growing problem.
A TNRM program does exactly what the name suggests and then some.
Not only are the animals safely trapped, neutered or spayed, then returned to their colony, they are also vaccinated, dewormed and microchipped before being put back in the neighbourhood. The program also uses a practice called ear-tipping, in which the cats have a small portion of their ear surgically cut to mark them as being part of the TNRM program.
Multiple municipalities face issues with feral cats as many of them, having been born in the wild, are not tame and therefore not deemed adoptable. Instead of housing these animals in city shelters, municipalities such as Kingston, Toronto and London have all too opted for TNRM programs.
As part of Oshawa’s program, $4,500 will be set aside to help with spaying and neutering the cats. The final amount is an increase over staff’s original proposal of $2,500 following an amendment made by Councillor Amy McQuaid-England.
Many pet advocates in attendance felt the original $2,500 just wouldn’t be enough.
“It’s not really workable in Oshawa with the amount of cats that are out there that need help,” said Denise Harkens.
The same was said by fellow pet advocate Martin Field.
“It’s public money well spent in my view, because it’s preventative measures,” he said. “I’m very grateful this money is being proposed to be advanced.”
Councillor Nester Pidwerbecki, while supportive of the funds, was hopeful the city would be able to set up a way for people to donate to the program via the city’s website, noting that people are usually fairly generous when it comes to animal issues.
“I think by involving a lot more people…it would raise the money, maybe even more,” he said. “I think we can do both, raising awareness publicly, and raising money publicly.”
The final vote on the TNRM program will go to council at its Nov. 27 meeting.