Feral cat caregivers worried about damage

HEATHER WRIGHT PHOTO Julie Medeiros gives Muffin some love on a recent visit to the Petrolia feral cat colony. Medeiros and two others take turns feeding and watering the cats and making sure they’re warm. Recently, they’ve become concerned after young children damaged the colony and stole some kittens. See the story on page 8.

Heather Wright/The Independent

For the past 30 years, animal lovers in Petrolia have been taking care of the feral cat population.

It’s been a fairly low profile group until recently, when some young children caused damage to the cat colony and stole kittens.

Julie Medeiros is one of three volunteers which makes sure the 40 or so cats which live in Petrolia’s downtown are warm, watered and fed once a day. Occasionally, one of the cats has kittens. They’re left with the mother for seven weeks and then taken to be fixed and adopted out by the Sarnia Humane Society. The mother is also fixed at that time, keeping the feral cat population at about 40.

Local businesses are appreciative, particularly restaurants in the core, says Medeiros, because the cats help keep the rodent population down. In turn, the businesses donate money and food for the cats to keep the group going. Black Gold Brewery has even named its beer after one of the cats, Frack.

“There’s always going to be feral cats because …people drop cats off that are pregnant, because they don’t want to fix them,” she says. “So, no matter what we do, they always come back in some way, shape or form. So it’s best to control the population and keep the ones that can’t be homed, healthy, and fed so that they’re not wandering… If they’re fixed, they’ll tend to wander less.”

But recently, some very young children were seen damaging the colony which is surrounded by hay bales.

“We had three kittens stolen that were nursing. They must have took those kittens home and the parents didn’t want them,” says Medeiros. “Somehow the kittens wound up in a box outside of town on a road, and were discovered, and taken to the Humane Society.”
Because the group works with the humane society, the kittens and their mother were reunited and then later adopted.

Medeiros is hoping parents will have a talk with their children about caring for animals and not destroying the places they live.

“It is important that kids respect property and animals. And if they don’t, there are consequences for it,” she says. “You know, kids that are taught compassion and held accountable for their actions are going to grow into better community citizens all the way around.

“You can’t just hurt an animal and damage property and think that it’s fine. It’s certainly not fine. And if we just let it go, then what else will it escalate into?”

Medeiros says many studies show that abusers often begin their abuse with animals.
Medeiros says families do come to see the cats occasionally and “nine times out of 10 it’s a positive experience, because people do go back there with their kids and families to see what’s going on…try to talk to them about the animals and things like that and that’s great. There’s nothing wrong with that.

“But when it becomes a problem is when they’re disrespectful, and generally unsupervised and hurt the cats.

The Petrolia OPP are looking into the incident and the Humane Society is prepared to take action if necessary.

Medeiros is also asking people passing by who may see people damaging the colonies to email the group at [email protected]