Couple looking for help with feral cat crisis
More than 20 feral cats have taken up residence on Theresa and Dennis Thiem’s porch. They would like to the cats find a home before winter temperatures get too cold. (Ashli Barrett/Lacombe Globe)
The Gull Lake area has long been a dumping ground for discarded pets and feral cats - an issue that has grown out of hand for the Thiems.
More than 20 feral cats live outside their doorstep. A year ago, there was less than 10.
“It is so upsetting,” said Theresa Thiem. “People just bring them out here and figure someone will feed them and give them a home.”
It began as just a couple of strays taking up residence in their Wilson’s Beach area yard. Soon, they had kittens, and by this year, those kittens had litters of their own, compounded with a few more abandoned strays. Neighbours have kept them out of their yards, but Theresa and her husband, Dennis, couldn’t turn them away.
“We are kind hearted people when it comes to animals and wildlife,” she said.
“We just don’t have the heart to be mean and cruel and kick them away from the door, seeing they’re hungry and cold.”
They built an outdoor shelter for the cats to keep them out of the wind, but they fear it won’t be enough when temperatures drop down to minus 30 and 40.
On top of that, it’s a growing financial burden. Every five days they go through a large bag of cat food. Every two days they go through two four-litre jugs of milk, costing them upwards of $200 a month for cats that aren’t their responsibility. Spaying and neutering that many isn’t a feasible option, either.
“It’s killing us in cat food and milk,” she said. “If we keep them all, we’re going to have 45 cats by next year.”
They’ve contacted shelters and rescue agencies locally and around the province to take them on, but wait lists are long.
When Theresa called the Red Deer S.P.C.A., she said there was a waiting list of 260, with 200 cats already in the system.
“We’ve called every avenue we’ve thought of.” she said. “We thought maybe if there were farmers or feed lots with mice problems or something they’d be willing to take some cats on.”
It’s a problem that unfortunately isn’t limited to one area, however. Whisker Rescue also has a waitlist, as does Alley Cats Rescue, which was founded to help deal with feral cats in the Central Alberta region. Alley Cats currently has 78 cats in the system and care.
While both rescue societies have programs in place such as Operation Tom Cat, trap-neuter-release programs and do their best to try and help out by providing litter and food, it’s not easy to help all the cats out there.
“We get so many emails daily about feral cats and we would love to try to help them all but we just can’t with the resources that we have,” said Vanessa Caird-Kutynec, the president and founder of Alley Cats rescue in an email to the Globe.
“If people are able to hold onto strays then we will offer to give them food, litter anything that they need while waiting to get that cat into Alley Cats Rescue. We do try to encourage everybody to open up their doors as that’s how we can make a difference.”
Still, more than 20 cats and kittens is a lot to deal with in one area. While Thiem says about seven of the cats have become fairly tame and could become house pets, many are best suited to farm life.
“It’s getting cold so we don’t want to see them die, but we really don’t know what else to do,” she said.
Area farmers or those interested in taking on some of the cats can contact Theresa Thiem by phone at (403)782-4889.