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That’s 5,000 neutered cats and many more to go, group says

Cathy Dobson LeeAnne Symington says the feral cat problem is still out of control, with entire neighbourhoods overrun by wild, malnourished and distressed cats.
LeeAnne Symington with her own cats Colby and Ashton.Cathy Dobson
LeeAnne Symington with her own cats Colby and Ashton. Cathy Dobson

Cathy Dobson 

LeeAnne Symington says the feral cat problem is still out of control, with entire neighbourhoods overrun by wild, malnourished and distressed cats.

It’s been four years since she founded Cat Chance, a small volunteer group in Sarnia that believes in Trap, Neuter, Return (TNR), which Symington says is a scientifically proven method to control cat populations.

Cat Chance recently reached a milestone — logging its 5,000th neutered cat.

One of the first areas Symington tackled with her tiny band of TNR experts was the Point Edward waterfront, where Purdy’s Fisheries and Bridgeview Marina operate.

“We’ve pretty much got that area cleaned up,” she said.  “But Sarnia definitely has a problem with feral cats.

“I’d like to see Sherwood Village cleaned up, the area around Mitton and Wellington streets, and Vidal Street near Devine.

“But until we get more volunteers and more money, it’s going to be slow going.”

Two years ago, the Town of Petrolia hired Cat Chance to help with its feral cat problem.  Town council agreed to pay $60 for each cat trapped, neutered and returned.

“We worked our tails off,” said Symington.  “We caught 60 cats in one month.”

In total, she estimates Cat Chance has trapped 300 to 400 feral cats in Petrolia, relieving the problem considerably.

But $60 per cat doesn’t cover all of the organization’s costs, even when veterinarians agree to provide a discount for spaying or neutering.

That leaves Cat Chance volunteers donating from their own bank accounts and trying to fundraise. And the shortfall is stretched when an injured cat is caught and requires medical help.

Recently, a charcoal-coloured male was reported to Cat Chance in central Sarnia.  Someone had moved out of a home and left the cat behind. A neighbour was feeding it.

“When we got there, it was in horrible shape,” Symington said.  “It was flea infested and its teeth were abscessed. But he’s a lovely cat.”

One of Cat Chance’s 10 foster homes – they need more – took the cat in and it will be ready for adoption once money is found for dental work.  Symington estimates that could cost $500.

She receives up to a dozen messages a day about feral and distressed cats.  Cat Chance volunteers can generally answer one call a day, and Symington wishes it were more.

“But we are volunteers, and I work,” she said.  “The people doing this really believe TNR is the best way to help but it takes time to trap and drive them to the vet.”

Kittens are also a big problem this summer and Cat Chance is doing its best to adopt as many out as possible.  Over the years, about 300 cats and kittens have been successfully adopted for a charge of $95 per cat, $165 per kitten and $215 for a pair. The charge covers the cost of neutering and shots. Cat Chance kitties are available at local Pet Valu stores.

There’s also a charge for people who call for TNR and Symington said she is always surprised Cat Chance volunteers are often expected to do it for nothing.

To volunteer, foster, adopt or donate, message Cat Chance on Facebook, email [email protected] or write Cat Chance, c/o 260 Indian Rd. South, Box 30014, Sarnia ON. N7T 0A7.

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