Cat tagging could lead to more problems say activists


A group which cares for feral cats doesn’t think a cat tagging system will reduce complaints about troublemaking felines.

The Town of Petrolia is holding a public meeting March 31 at 6:30 pm to talk about how to control wandering cats after several residents voiced concerns about their behaviour. One of the things under consideration is a cat tagging system.

Cat Chance says tagging systems rarely control meandering felines and may lead to even bigger problems down the road.

Cat Chance is a group of volunteers who trap stray cats, pays for them to be fixed and then returns them to their environment. It’s based out of Sarnia but has been working in Petrolia, capturing and neutering between 20 and 30 cats which make their home in the downtown.

Ashly Boss is a member of Cat Chance and helps care for the Petrolia colony. She first noticed the animals just over a year ago when taking a side street. She and her friends built a small shelter for the animals and have been helping others in the community feed the 30 or so animals.

She teamed up with LeeAnne Symington, who lives in Sarnia but grew up near Petrolia, spending hours capturing the cats and then carefully taking them to low cost clinics to be spayed or neutered. It costs about $60 to treat each animal and the group raises the cash to complete the work.

The cats are then returned to their home where they continue to roam but don’t reproduce. One cat and its offspring can produce 420,000 cats over seven years.

The neutered strays rarely fight and because volunteers care for the colony, Boss and Symington believe they don’t go rooting through people’s garbage.

And they do provide an important service, Symington says – rodent control.

“People who advocate TNR (Trap, Neuter and Release) will ask people, ‘do want cats or do you want rats?’”

“It is a proven fact that when a cat population dwindles, the rodent problem increases but people often don’t think that far ahead,” she says. “They think a cat has sprayed on their step or is fighting in the backyard and their immediate reaction is they want them removed.”

But Symington says that doesn’t help. “When you remove it actually causes the rest of the colony to increase their breeding to compensate their numbers. You end up with more cats in the end. Even if you remove the colony, if there are resources there, more cats will move in and it will never end.

“TNR is the only proven solution and it has been proven to be success across North America and Europe to work.”

Symington and Boss plan to be at the public meeting to talk about the steps they have been taking to control stray cats in Petrolia and speak against a cat bylaw. They’ll also explain how homeowners can take steps to keep the kitties off their property using simple low-cost techniques.

And they may ask the town to help with the neutering program. Symington says it can save officials a lot of time and money in the long run. “It saves the taxpayers’ money because when the numbers (of cats) go down – and it is a proven fact the numbers go down – there are less calls to animal control.”