A community discussion on stray cats

Groups want best way to control Maple Ridge feline population

The District of Maple Ridge has pledged $35,000 a year for the next three to spay and neuter cats.

To make the most out of this money, the Maple Ridge branch of the B.C. SPCA. along with Katie’s Place – a volunteer-run  animal shelter beside the SPCA on Jackson Road – will host a community discussion on Nov. 3 to address the problem of free-roaming cats in order to come up with innovative and creative solutions.

The discussion, called “Let’s Talk About Cats,” is open to all residents of Maple Ridge and employees who work in the district.

“This is a consultation process,” explained Mark Vosper, manager of the Maple Ridge branch of the SPCA.

“We need everyone to come together. We need to know where the money needs to be spent.”

Areas where there  are stray and feral cats need to be identified.

“If we get everyone to feed in, then we can build up a map and a plan on how best to tackle this,” said Vosper.

The problem starts when cats are not spayed or neutered. It not only deteriorates the health of the animal, explains Vosper, but the cat can continue having kittens, which adds to the problem every year.

“With more strays around or animals that are just roaming, we see more hit by cars or maybe coyotes getting them, or something nasty happening like that. So the more responsible people become, then the better the problem will be. It’s going to improve,” said Vosper.

This is not a problem specific to Maple Ridge, though, it is a problem throughout the province.

Geoff Urton, manager of animal welfare for the B.C. SPCA, applauds the Maple Ridge district for its progressive approach on this issue.

“There is honestly a homeless cat  crisis in B.C.,” said Urton. “One of the things we are really committed to is trying to get to the grassroots to solve this problem and engaging other people outside of the B.C. SPCA branch network in local communities,” he said.

Urton is hoping the pilot project will generate ideas tailor-made for Maple Ridge and involve various animal rescue groups, local veterinarians, municipal staff and concerned residents.

Katie’s Place has, on average, between 90 and 110 cats housed at the shelter at any given time, plus additional cats in foster care. Currently, the Maple Ridge SPCA has 55 cats under its care.

Tracey Bon, who has been a volunteer at Katie’s Place for the past 11 years, believes having both shelters working on the issue, with the support of council, will produce successful results.

“We’re in a position that we can hopefully in the three years that the project’s going we can really, really get a significant handle on it.”

The community dialogue is Nov. 3, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Hammond Community Centre (20601 Westfield Avenue).

• For more information, call Geoff Urton at 604-681-7271 or visit spayneuter@spca.bc.ca.