Cat Chance gets another chance to deal with strays in Petrolia

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Petrolia's feral cat population is "a lot calmer" after Cat Chance trapped, neutered and released 60 animals in the past year.

LeeAnne Symington says Petrolia’s feral cats are “a lot calmer” after a year of neutering the felines.

Symington is with Cat Chance, the group which came to Petrolia council in spring 2016 when it was considering a bylaw which would have required tags for cats. At the time, homeowners were complaining about cats wandering in their neighbourhoods and leaving their marks in their flowerbeds.

Cat Chance argued there was nothing wrong with allowing feral cats in the community, but they had to be neutered to stop aggressive behaviour and rapid reproduction. Council agreed to give the group $3,600 to trap, neuter and release 60 cats. Monday, Symington told councillors the project went very well.

Symington says all but four of the cats in the main colony have now been neutered. The group also took care of a few smaller colonies around town.

“People are telling us they’re noticing there is not as much of a problem,” says Symington. “The males aren’t travelling miles for females…everyone’s calmed down.”

And she says the people of Petrolia were willing to help out, offering to be involved in the trapping and showing Cat Chance volunteers where to find the strays.

Now volunteers care for the cats and students at Alexander Mackenzie Secondary Schools have built shelters for the animals, some of which are in Petrolia for the feral cats here. Video surveillance has been set up at one of the colonies to find anyone who might be dumping cats in the area.

And while the program has been a success, Symington says there are still more strays which need to be neutered. Councillors, who say they have noticed there are not as many roaming cats as before, have agreed to continue the program. Staff will report back to council on where the $3,600 can be found in the budget.

Symington says the Petrolia project has not only improved the life of the feral cats in the downtown and made them less aggressive, it has opened people’s eyes to what can be done to help without harming the animals.

“We do get a lot of people message us and say ‘We’ve herd a lot about you,’” she says. The group has even garnered small donations from as far away as Bulgaria and the United Kingdom.

“Once people see you aren’t just about talking, you’re doing what you say you are going to do, they are positive.”