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Cat committee in Cote St-Luc helps feral population and needs support

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For years cats have been coming around to Warren Perley’s office door. Perley, a cat lover, always leaves bowls of food and water for them, since many of them are feral or non-domesticated.

One day a scrawny black cat came to his door and stayed.

"He must have been abandoned, lost and had a terrible infection in his jaw," he said.

Unable to turn his back, Perley called fellow cat-lover, and overseer of the Cote St-Luc Cat Committee, Mike Cohen, to help him get the cat to a veterinarian.

Two surgeries and several rounds of antibiotics later, Perley adopted the cat and called him Buster.

Cohen said Buster likely came from the nearby CP Railyard, where there is a large feral cat colony.

"There’s likely thousands of homeless cats just in Cote St-Luc and in the surrounding area," he said.

This is why several volunteers along with city councillor Cohen formed the cat committee 15 years ago to help control the feral cat overpopulation.

Trap, neuter and release is the best way to save the cats, but timing is crucial, according to Dr. Valerie Bissonnette, a veterinarian who has done extensive research in controlling cat overpopulation.

"Cats can be fertile as soon as four months old," she said. "They can have up to nine kittens per litter and several litters a year."

The City of Cote St-Luc recognized the need to deal with cat overpopulation and has contributed a stipend of $10,500 a year.

However, due to a budget deficit this year, the city cut the stipend in half. The committee, entirely volunteer run and donor based, fundraises throughout the year but doesn’t have enough to make up the shortfall.

The Cote St-Luc Hospital for Animals’  Dr. Marlene Kalin said that even though they offer their services to the committee at a discount, the cost of neutering and caring for the cats is high.

In addition, she said cat overpopulation has far reaching impacts.

"It’s definitely a program that from a humane point of view has its value," said Kalin. "From a health-care point of view, it has its value. From a sanitation point of view, it has its value."

Kalin said stray and feral cats often use sand boxes in parks as litter boxes, putting children at risk of worms or parasites.

Her team have also adopted a few of the cats who have come through their doors, and one of the stray cats, Mr. Big, lives full-time at the office.

"He’s a bit grumpy," she said.

Meanwhile, at Perley’s office, Buster is never far from sight.

"He’s the best cat you could ever find. He’s very grateful to have been rescued, you can tell. You know they talk to you. These cats really appreciate what you’ve done for them," he said. 

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