The warmth of spring brings the purrr­fect time for cats to ap­pear

The China Post - - LIFE - BY CAITLIN AN­DREWS

As spring be­gins to make it­self known, res­i­dents may start to see more cats emerge in a yearly event co­in­cid­ing with the chang­ing of the sea­sons. Many will be home­less or feral, left to fend for them­selves.

“Cats hide out dur­ing the win­ter,” said Kris­tine Halsey, manager of shel­ter op­er­a­tions for the Cocheco Val­ley Hu­mane So­ci­ety.

Cocheco cur­rently has 56 cats in its fa­cil­i­ties, 19 of which are strays. The num­ber of strays is low for this time of year, prob­a­bly due to the harsh win­ter, said Halsey. “We haven’t seen any is­sues in terms of the health of an­i­mals,” she said. “But be­cause of the hor­ri­ble snow and cold we had ear­lier this year, we didn’t see as many cats com­ing in as we usu­ally do.”

One of Cocheco’s ini­tia­tives is con­trol­ling the feral cat pop­u­la­tion by catch­ing, spay­ing or neu­ter­ing, and then re­leas­ing them back into the wild. A feral cat, Halsey said, is one that has never known hu­man con­tact. Fer­als live in colonies rang­ing from eight to 50 an­i­mals. But they are not pests.

“The feral cat pop­u­la­tion is a huge fac­tor in con­trol­ling mice and rat pop­u­la­tions,” Halsey said. “We (also) have a barn cat pro­gram where we will catch cats and re­lo­cate them to barns to help main­tain pest-free en­vi­ron­ments.”

Halsey de­clined to say where the colonies are lo­cated. “We can say there are feral cat colonies lo­cated in ev­ery town that we ser­vice,” she said.

Lynn Bar­rett, pres­i­dent of Sea­coast Area Fe­line Ed­u­ca­tion and Res­cue, or SAFER, said cats living in ar­eas with harsh win­ters rarely re­pro­duce dur­ing the sea­son.

“Spring and sum­mer are when you see cats re­pro­duc­ing,” she said. “We al­ways re­ceive a flurry of calls from peo­ple who think they see strays, but they’re usu­ally part of a feral colony or neigh­bor­hood pets.”

SAFER is a vol­un­teer- run or­ga­ni­za­tion ded­i­cated to the trap­ping, fix­ing and re­leas­ing or plac­ing of cats deemed to be home­less. It main­tains mul­ti­ple sta­tions around the Sea­coast where it pro­vides feral cats with shel­ter and food. When a cat is trapped, SAFER holds it for a week to de­ter­mine if it’s a stray, a lost pet, or feral. If it’s feral, they will fix it, give it shots and nick its ear as a sign the cat is part of a colony and has been treated, and then re­turn it to where it was found.

“When I joined SAFER in 2004, there were 300 feral cats around Hamp­ton Beach alone,” she said. “Now, we main­tain a colony of about 14; be­cause of how we take care of them, we only lost two cats due to win­ter this year.”

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