In some parts of Australia, the feral feline population is such a serious problem the government instituted a policy to pay for adult and kitten scalps, something Debbie Firman of the Penticton-based AlleyCATS Alliance does not want to see happen here.
“There are websites with pictures of women in Australia with cats around their necks - the cats were dead - I couldn’t go on,” said Firman about seeing the reports. “The problem is real and it’s worldwide and it’s happening here.
“There was a report several weeks ago that said there are 18,000 feral cats in the Central Okanagan, it’s happening in our own backyard and we have to do something about it.”
The focus of the nonprofit AlleyCATS Alliance is to rescue, rehabilitate and where possible, adopt out feral and orphaned cats and kittens.
“We have all kinds of cats and kittens coming in here, some with one eye, others that are super sick, healthy cats that have been with people and just left behind. Everybody wants a cute little kitten but the second it becomes a cat, it’s a different story,” said Firman.
She added that in places like Olalla and parts of Osoyoos there are entire populations of feral cats listed as an invasive species in Australia.
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Her organization has worked to trap them, with the goal of spaying and neutering those caught, often releasing them to live out their lives without being able to propagate.
“Our mandate is completely different than the SPCA, we don’t re-home cats for people who call and say they’re moving to a new apartment and can’t have a cat,” said Firman. “There are some cats that we get that are so wild they’re absolutely not adoptable.”
She added part of the goal for those released is to turn them into “working cats” let go at places like barns or ranches where they can keep rodent populations in check.
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AlleyCATS is affiliated with the Okanagan Cat Coalition, an umbrella organization of concerned animal welfare charities, veterinarians and residents.
AlleyCATS also has foster homes for kittens and cats as well as being part of the Spay & Neuter As Many As Possible (SNAP) program for pet owners who need financial assistance for the operation
“We pick up cats from as far away as Oliver and Cawston towards Rock Creek and Summerland,” said Firman.
“We also get quite a few calls for pregnant cats on the street, so they either have their cats on the street and we pick them up or they have their kittens here and we foster them and put them up for adoption.”
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Since it was founded in 2012, the organization has had over 1,300 felines come through its doors and prevented many thousands more from being born.
“It’s our (people’s) responsibility in the first place and we’ve had so many success stories and that makes everything we do worthwhile,” said Firman.
“We do as much as humanly possible that we can, a little bit at a time but education is critical, please be responsible when you get an animal, no matter what kind of animal, please, please, get it spayed or neutered.”
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