Skip to content

CARE sounds alarm over feral cat populations in Tofino - Ucluelet region

CARE hosts spay and neuter clinics with the Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ - Ucluelet First Nation
The Coastal Animal Rescue and Education Network’s Mission Pawsible mobile vet team arrived in Hitacu on Sunday for a four-day spay, neuter and vaccination clinic with a keen eye on the community’s stray cat population. (CARE photo)

The Coastal Animal Rescue and Education Network is working with the Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ - Ucluelet First Nation to help homeless cats in Hitacu and is hoping other West Coast communities will follow the Nation’s lead to tackle the growing issue of feral felines.

CARE’s Mission Pawsible team arrived in the community last to offer a spay, neuter and vaccination clinic for the community’s companion animals and spent about a week prior trapping feral cats to treat as well.

“We’ve definitely got a specific eye out and keeping space for getting those feral cats under control to try to keep everybody safe. It’s just one small piece of a bigger plan that we’re still working on with the Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ government,” CARE co-founder James Rodgers told the Westerly News.

“These cats live in and around our communities and it’s always a sad story. They’re living rough, outside and certainly in the winter it’s very rough and wet and that’s terrible for them. It’s also, in my opinion, a major community health and safety issue because those cats, just like unwanted dogs, become attractants for the wild animals, predators like wolves, cougars and even bears…Certainly in our rural and remote communities, that increases the risk of human-wildlife conflict potential.”

He noted that Tofino had “amazing volunteers” tackling Tofino’s feral cat population for over 30 years as part of the Stray Cats About Town program which also picked up steam in Ucluelet, though both programs have since dissolved.

“They really, I would say, solved that situation, but it comes back fast. It just takes a couple cats getting left behind when someone moves that aren’t spayed or neutered and we’re right back to cat colonies that, when they get out of control, can get viruses and diseases that spread,” he said.

He said CARE is doing its best to pick up where the local SCAT programs left off, but it’s a mammoth undertaking for volunteers to trap feral colonies and get them spayed or neutered.

“We’re always trapping cats all over the region to try to keep the numbers somewhat manageable, but I wouldn’t even say we’re treading water. It’s just an ongoing challenge,” he said.

Rodgers is urging the West Coast’s local governments to put management plans in place for the stray cat issue plaguing the entire peninsula.

He suggested one of the key contributors is pets being left behind when their owners leave town.

“I’m going to speculate here but I think, to some degree, it’s the somewhat transient nature of our communities with seasonal folks moving here and moving away,” he said.

“I know there was one case where somebody was moving away and decided to leave their five cats all not spayed or neutered in Tofino and didn’t really think too much of it. We were just beside ourselves…After spending 30 years getting those feral populations under control, those five cats that weren’t spayed and neutered being left was just shocking.”

The clinic was expected to wrap up after four days and Rodgers said CARE would comb the Island in search of homes for the newly fixed feral cats.

“In some cases, there are caretakers, people who feed the cats, keep an eye out for them and have names for them. In those cases, if we can get a cat spayed or neutered and then returned again, so long as there’s someone there to care for them and keep an eye on their health, then we can return the cats. But, where there isn’t somebody there to take care of them, that’s where we need to find other solutions,” he said. “We’re always networking with other animal rescues and shelters around the Island to figure out how to manage these situations.”

He added feral cats can be tough to rehome as they struggle to be domesticated.

“The more we can trap and get the kittens before they become the wild little tigers that feral cats become, even juveniles, we’ve got a great rate of success in terms of socializing and actually being able to rehome those cats,” he said.

“I can think of one cat that took something north of nine months to finally come around to being OK with cuddles or at least belly scratches or petting for that matter, but there’s rare few fosters out there that are willing to spend the time and care to socialize these cats.”

Rodgers suggested the mobile clinic could return to the West Coast if it’s called for and he encourages residents wanting to see the Mission Pawsible crew show up in their communities to speak to their local governments.

“It is a community approach that we take and we’re really focused on the community health and safety,” he said. “Each community out here on the West Coast, as we all know who live here, is unique. I think a lot of people that aren’t from here think of us as one big place, but there’s such nuanced differences between each community and those nuanced differences certainly apply to the animal control and animal issues in each community…The Indigenous communities out here, without exception, have the most progressive animal bylaws, acts and regulations. It’s pretty impressive.”

Don’t miss out on reading the latest local, provincial and national news. Join our community and receive daily news alerts & breaking news, right to your inbox.

READ MORE: Canine parvovirus outbreak continues in Tofino - Ucluelet region

READ MORE: Animal rescue group founded in Tofino launches mobile vet clinic

READ MORE: Tofino council stands pat on CARE contract snub

Andrew Bailey

About the Author: Andrew Bailey

I arrived at the Westerly News as a reporter and photographer in January 2012.
Read more