Cats don't hoard well. Earlier this month the SPCA seized 127 cats from a Dartmouth home–now it's dealing with resulting cost and capacity problems. Coinciding with the upcoming breeding season and an overpopulation of cats provincially, the non-government funded charity needs homes soon for its furry refugees.
Special constable Nancy Noel, sergeant field supervisor for the Nova Scotia SPCA, led the seizure. "Everywhere your eyes went there were cats," she says. "It was surreal."
The Burnside shelter at 5 Scarfe Court has kennels for up to 110 cats and 200 in foster care, but didn't have space for this many new residents. Sixty rescued cats were outsourced to three other shelters. Thirty-one have been adopted, but the rest are still awaiting their new lives. A crowdfunding campaign, aimed at covering the cats' medical costs, has surpassed the shelter's $15,000 goal, but it always needs more donations. It takes $50,000 a month to keep shelter care at a veterinary level.
While the provincial shelter usually adopts out 150 cats a month, these hoarded cats are slower going. Sandra Flemming, provincial animal care director for the NSSPCA, says cats unaccustomed to human affection are "more timid and take extra time to adjust to a home environment." (In hoarding situations animals don't receive adequate attention.) While the rescued cats are happy and healthy, the shelter is helping them develop the trust needed to be cuddled and cooed over by future families.
The SPCA is a no-kill shelter, with a release rate of 90 percent. "We don't euthanize healthy, adoptable animals," says Flemming. And while the shelter does not have the space for open intake, vulnerable animals like mothers and kittens are always accepted, with even palliative care provided.
The April rescue, which led to three charges of animal cruelty, began with neighbour complaints of odour and cat sightings. Noel says when she investigated the home, "the smell of ammonia was overpowering. It burnt your eyes, it made you cough, it was hard to breathe." Still, the cats were relatively healthy. None were thin and there was "not a flea, no ear mites, not a parasite of any kind."
The owners were "very compliant," says Noel. They were overwhelmed, having started out with only four animals five years ago. Cats have up to four litters a year. If one female in heat gets outside, "there are seven cats walking back in," says Noel. "She's got a belly full of kittens."
Nova Scotia has an overpopulation of our feline friends. This means shelters are constantly inundated (donations of food and litter are always appreciated). "It's a crisis," says Noel, "when it comes to cats."