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Fort Macleod council to consult public on town’s cat problems

Fort Macleod residents will help shape a plan to control an increasing cat population.

Council voted Jan. 27 to proceed with public engagement on an issue that has scratched its way onto the agenda several times.

“We’ve had several conversations over the last few months about concerns about cats,” Town of Fort Macleod director of community and protective services Liisa Gillingham said, 

Gillingham brought a recommendation to the Jan. 27 council meeting at the G.R. Davis Administration Building.

The recommendation was for council to proceed with public engagement on a trap and neuter program.

Gillingham told council the goal of the program would be to reduce the number of cats and to control their health.

The program would involve trapping wild or feral cats that live together in a colony.

Those cats would be spayed or neutered, vaccinated against rabies, be marked for identification and returned to their territory.

Spaying or neutering the cats would serve to reduce the size of the colony over time, and would also reduce nuisance behaviour, Gillingham wrote in her report.

Since the cats would no longer seek to reproduce, fighting and noises related to mating would stop and males would no longer spray to mark their territory.

Gillingham told council volunteers would be needed to identify where cat colonies are located, determine the number of feral and wild cats, and monitor feeding stations to lure the cats for trapping.

Gillingham noted that feral cats that are fed pet food tend to be healthier.

The town would contact someone to trap the cats.

“We need to have some community involvement,” Gillingham told council. “It is not a simple program.”

Gillingham, who researched solutions in compiling her recommendation, estimated it would cost $50 to trap each cat.

Veterinary care for each cat would cost $100 to $150.

Other costs can’t be determined until the cat population is known.

Council expressed concern that people who own cats but allow them to roam would be upset if the animal was trapped and neutered or spayed.

Coun. Jim Monteith suggested the solution to that problem is to create a cat licensing by-law.

Deputy Mayor David Orr agreed licensing cats would solve the identification issue.

Gillingham said that raises an issue of where “owned” cats that are trapped would be housed until claimed.

“We don’t have a shelter and I’m not suggesting we start that,” Gillingham said.

Coun. Werner Dressler noted feeding stations would serve to attract predators such as coyotes and cougars.

Dressler also said cats that are licensed would need to be tagged with electronic chips, since collars and tags fall off.

Coun. Marco Van Huigenbos said he was concerned about spending $200 or more to feed, trap and spay or neuter one cat.

Van Huigenbos said until it is know how many problem cats would need to be trapped, it is difficult to set a realistic budget.

The discussion led to a motion to simply begin pubic consultation on the topic of cat control.

“I’m all in favour of public engagement,” Orr said.