Power of One: Tackling Montreal's stray cat problem
Published Sunday, January 22, 2012 6:18PM EST
MONTREAL - In the early 2000s, Shelley Schecter was shocked to discover that the city of Montreal had lost control of its stray cat population. Faced with a failing euthanasia program, Schecter made it her mission to deal humanely with strays.
"With cats, there's such a thing as a vacuum effect," said Schecter, who established the charity Educhat in 2002. "The more you kill, the more they reproduce."
While the city of Montreal euthanizes troublesome strays, Schecter opted for a non-lethal option: a trap, neuter and release program. Operating in her neighbourhood of Côte Saint-Luc, Schecter gets calls from people who have spotted strays.
"I spend many evenings and many days sitting in my car waiting to trap cats, bringing them to the vet and bringing them back," said Schecter, who isn't remunerated for her work.
After Schecter traps a cat, a process that can take over an hour, she brings the strays to a local veterinarian who neuters them for $60. The neutering is essential because cats can reproduce at a prodigious rate: two cats can produce 400,000 offspring over seven years.
While Educhat looks for people to adopt the neutered cats, most are released back onto city streets.
"Cats are companion animals. They are supposed to be living in a house, they are not supposed to be living outside," said Schecter. "We live in Montreal, the climate is extremely severe and these cats have no food, shelter or water."
While Côte Saint-Luc provided some grants to the organization in the past, Educhat has survived off of public donations since the grants ended in 2006. Covering the bills hasn't always been easy and Schecter estimates she has spent thousands out of her own pocket.
According to veterinarian Melanie Cukierman, Schecter's work is essential to keep the stray problem under control.
"As soon as they start becoming problematic, they need to come to the vet because they're sick, they're urinating in places to mark their territory and people sort of give up," said Cukierman.
While Schecter has been called a "crazy cat lady" by some, she doesn't mind the label.
"I would prefer to be called a crazy cat lady than a cold-hearted barbarian," continued Schecter, stating that the only crazy thing is to not help at all.
To contact Educhat, click here.