Local Vet/Vet Tech Lead Effort to Control NBP Stray Cat Population

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Photo Courtesy of Trace MacKay. Photo L-R: Dr. Trace MacKay and RVT Nikk LaFontaine with a stray cat on the surgery table.

Stray Cat Fund Spays/Neuters and Tends to Sick/Stray Felines

By Joanne Rodgers, Bruce Peninsula Press

About two years ago, a local vet started an initiative to control and look after the health of the local stray cat population in the village of Lion’s Head. This program currently extends to Tobermory and everywhere in between, covering all of the Northern Bruce Peninsula (NBP). 

Dr Trace MacKay, a locum Veterinarian who works at Sauble Beach Pet Hospital and Wiarton Animal Hospital, says “This whole project got started with me capturing the mid-winter antics of some Lion’s Head street cats on camera and sharing the videos on social media. The cat gang videos generated quite a following – and then I caught them breeding in the middle of the street one evening, and the next evening one of the cats was limping badly. So what started as entertainment, quickly turned into work!”

MacKay started fundraising and trapped her first Lion’s Head street cat in her driveway in March of 2022 after noticing an uptick in stray cat activity over the winter months. Since that time, other community members have stepped up to trap or catch stray cats sporadically, or for what they have been calling monthly “round-ups”, usually conducted on weekends.

The project has been primarily managed by Registered Veterinary Technician (RVT) Nikk LaFontaine and Veterinarian Dr Trace MacKay who volunteer their time and skills to the program. However they credit everyone on staff at Sauble Beach Pet Hospital for pitching in to help over the past two years.

Photo Courtesy of Trace MacKay. Photo: RVT Nikk LaFontaine with a stray cat recovering after surgery.

The animal care team at Sauble Beach Pet Hospital donate their time to fix these strays up and foster, rehome, or release them (if they are too feral to be handled). 

While about 50% of the cats are young, the program has helped a whole range of cats from 8 week old kittens to older male tomcats. Some have been quite social, but most are very fearful and feral, are not used to human contact and can’t be handled. Most recently, LaFontaine treated a cat with head trauma from being hit by a car and was able to find a home for the cat.

So far the team has spayed a total of 28 female cats, neutered 32 male cats and treated 5 sick or injured strays from the Northern Bruce Peninsula. All of the spayed/neutered cats are vaccinated against Rabies and other contagious cat viruses, dewormed, given flea treatments, pain medication and their left ear notched if they don’t already have a home to go to. If you see a cat on the streets and it has a left ear tip missing, that means it has been spayed or neutered. 

Photo Courtesy of Trace MacKay. Photo: Seven fixed up cats from a Saturday morning round up in the Lion’s Head area.

MacKay says “None of this would have been possible without the generosity of community members (and Facebook fans from far away) who have so far donated just over $7,700 to cover the cost of consumable items like injectable anesthetics, medications, vaccines, flea treatments, dewormer and suture material. Special thanks go to Dr. Kevin Belbeck, the owner of Sauble Beach Pet Hospital for allowing us the space and time to use his clinic for this project.”

This isn’t a start and stop date project. As long as there is one intact male and one intact female cat around, they can have up to 4 litters a year with 4 to 6 kittens per litter. This will require ongoing efforts from all of the wonderful volunteers and the generous donors who have kept this project going.

MacKay advises “If you have a cat, please make sure it is spayed or neutered by six months of age – a female cat can get pregnant as early as 6 or 7 months of age when they first come into heat and a male cat is ready to breed around the same age.”

To help keep the local cats healthy and control the stray cat population, MacKay shares the following tips:

• Please don’t let your cat have “just 1 litter”. There are so many kittens and cats at rescues and shelters that need homes already.

• If you’re a seasonal resident, please don’t take in a cute summer kitten and leave it here when you go home at the end of the summer.

• If you find a stray cat or kittens, please call local animal control to get them off the streets or a local pet rescue to see if they can take them in and find them homes. 

• If you live in town, please keep your cats indoors where it is safer, and so they don’t kill vulnerable species of birds that live, or make their way, across the Peninsula each year. 

• If you do have a cat that you can’t keep indoors make sure it has ID tags or is microchipped so we can get them back to you if they get caught. 

To help with this initiative:

-you can catch or trap a stray cat, 

– or if you have a barn/farm available to take fixed feral cats to get them off the streets, please contact Nikk at Sauble Beach Pet Hospital to get more information.

To donate to the Northern Peninsula Stray Cat Fund you can call or stop into Sauble Beach Pet Hospital or donate to our GoFundMe page https://www.gofundme.com/f/lions-head-stray-cat-fund