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Humane society says it’s seeing a dramatic decrease in stray and feral cats | CBC News


Melanie Coulter’s efforts to care for animals are getting a little easier. 

As the executive director of the Windsor/Essex County Humane Society, she used to grapple with an overflow of stray cats – so much that it was at a “crisis point.” But the number of stray cats the society took in decreased by more than 50 per cent between 2011 and 2022.

“The population decreasing is a really good thing. It is for us because we’re able to give more cats more space,” Coulter said. “We’re able to find them homes more quickly.”

As for why, Coulter credits the society implementing a spay and neuter program at its clinics. The program was implemented, she says, after the society hit a breaking point. 

“When the numbers were as high as they were at a crisis level in 2011, it really made it a challenge to find homes and placement for everybody,” she said. 

A woman wearing a purple humane society shirt plays with a kitten on the other side of the glass
Melanie Coulter says the clinics, along with vouchers encouraging people to spay and neuter their animals, seem to be doing the trick. (Tyler Clapp/CBC)

“At the same time our clinic opened, the municipalities expanded that effort by increasing access even more by providing spay-neuter vouchers to help people spay or neuter community cats or their own cats.”

Aside from helping cats find a better home, the push for spaying and neutering has impacted humans too, she said. Cats roaming neighbourhoods stresses out the people living there.

“It can be frustrating for neighbours if there’s community cats,” she said. “Nobody wants to see cats living on the streets if they could be living inside homes.”

The lowered number of strays coming into the humane society also bodes well for the environment.

Derek Coronado, co-ordinator of Citizens Environmental Alliance, says strays and other outdoor cats put pressure on ecosystems by their habits.

Two kittens cuddle in a cat bed in an enclosure at a humane society shelter
Melanie Coulter says cats are finding homes faster than 10 years ago. (Tyler Clapp/CBC)

“In terms of impacts on bird species, those cats kill about upwards or over 200 million birds per year in Canada,” Coronado said.

Such a statistic was echoed by Birds Canada, a nationwide conservation group sharing that roughly 100 to 350 million birds were killed by cats yearly.

Stray cats can also pose threats to flora and fauna as well.

“In their efforts to get at what they’re after, going through or trampling on various plant species or marking and identifying those areas that they like to hunt in may affect plant species,” Coronado said.

Coulter says the presence of fewer strays shows the importance of handling these cats the right way.

“The biggest message that we’ve taken from this is that spay and neuter works, and that increasing access to spay and neuter in a community does make a difference.”


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