According to the definition at neighborhoodcats.org, “A “feral” cat is unsocialized and tends to be fearful of people and keep a distance.” This may once have been true of the sixteen cats Samantha Statton is currently looking after but, speaking as a former cat owner, a few of these are among the friendliest cats I have seen. It was hard to take a picture because they were constantly sniffing my lens, or trying to smooch, and one adorable youngster liked to jump up onto my shoulder for a nuzzle. In this morning’s interview Samantha explains how Cortes Cat Rescue came into being, what they do and ways you can help out.
Cats Kill Birds
“Some people don’t like cats; they kill birds. Well, yes they do and that’s one thing I do not like about cats, but that’s one of the things they do. You can keep your cat in the house. Some cats, right from day one, are happy to live indoors. In the same breath, if there is an overabundance of cats, there is just that many more to kill more birds,” she said.
“They’re out there struggling and trying to catch some food … They’ll get predated [by] eagles, hawks, wolves, cougars and racoons even … They will perish, but still they have this tough hard life and in my view it is just not a good scene.”
Samantha was referring to Cortes Island’s feral cats, which were originally pets. She has a suggestion:
“If you get your cat spaded and neutered, you’d cut down that problem as well. Its a win-win situation I think: for the cats, for the birds.”
The Feral Cat Problem
“It’s not the cat’s fault that they are in this predicament. It’s the humans who think its not necessary to spade and neuter their cats … It’s too expensive, or not necessary, or I want my children to see the miracle of birth .. when you do that, the cat has 8 or 9 kittens and then what do you do with them? Maybe you’ll find them homes, but will the people who get those kittens get them spayed and neutered?”
The feral cat problem is exasperated by the fact females can start producing litters when they are five months old. Then those kittens go off and, before they have even reached adulthood, start having litters of their own.
“If you have a male feral cat around, they cause havoc. They are not friendly. They’ll try and get into your house, spray and be looking for females so they can mate.”
“ … I don’t know if you’ve had any experience with a female cat going into heat, it’s horrendous. I had one a number of years ago, she was too young to get fixed and she just about drove me crazy. I couldn’t isolate her. She was locked in my house, but I couldn’t keep her somewhere where I couldn’t hear her screaming. That’s a thing to contend with … and then they’ll get pregnant and usually go off into the bush and have the babies there. You don’t see them until they are weaned, running around and stuff. If you don’t grab them as soon as you see them, you won’t catch them because they’re leery of people. ”
Origins Of Cortes Cat Rescue
Samantha was one of the three women who founded Cortes Cat Rescue in 2015. They knew about a Whaletown residence that fed feral cats. Someone suggested, “Let’s get them fixed, so at least they’re not reproducing.” That was the start of their relationship with the vet in Willow Point, Campbell River. Soon there were reports of other feral cat populations in Squirrel Cove, and Potlatch Road.
“Over time people just kept saying there are stray cats here, or in my house, and what do I do? Or there is a male and he is terrorizing my cat that I have,” says Samantha.
A lot of the cats were returned to owners. Others were placed in homes on Cortes. As for the remainder, the SPCA takes stray cats providing they are sociable.
Two of the original founders of Cortes Cat Rescue have left, and now Patricia Leroux and Barb Vosper have become active.
The Cat Shelter
Almost from the first, Samantha saw the possibility of transforming a portion of her barn into a cat shelter. It didn’t happen until late 2016. Some of the materials were donated by people on Cortes or Campbell River. Jim Kearny built the shelter.
“Sometimes the cats are completely social when they come. … I can phone the SPCA in Campbell River and say I have X number of cats, they are all social. all friendly, can I bring them in?’ If they have space, they will say ‘yes.’ If they are feral, you can’t pick them up and cuddle them, and they won’t take them because they do not have the time or resources to deal with these cats. What I like to do – I had my shelter built specifically for this reason – is socialize the ones that aren’t social, to give them that leg up.”
On a typical day, she will spend five hours in the shelter: feeding the cats, hanging out with them and scooping litter boxes.
On December 5, she will be taking nine of these cats to the SPCA in Campbell River.
Cortes Cat Rescue is financed through:
- bake sales, like the one coming up on Dec 20, 2019.
- Patricia Leroux holds book sales for Cortes Cat Rescue at Mansons’ Friday Market ($5 a book), mostly in the summer months
- an organic popsicle sale at Sandcastle Day one year
- At Cortes Day, iced coffee and tea with some baked goods.
- At Seafest one year, pie and ice cream.
- Donation jars at Cortes Island’s stores
People can also deposit donations directly into the Cortes Cat Rescue account at Coastal Community Credit Union.
“We spend the money as fast as we make it because as soon as we can get a cat in to get it spayed or neutered, in it goes – and of course keeping up with food and kitty litter for them, “ says Samantha.