Stray Cats

Sadly, there is an ongoing problem with stray cats in our community. This stems from individuals who fail to meet their responsibilities when they choose to become a pet owner. Many don’t have their pets neutered. These pets breed with a resultant litter of kittens that needs to become homed or, more commonly, gets dumped. Although some claim that they simply cannot afford the veterinary costs of neutering, this cost really should be considered BEFORE choosing to take on a pet.

The other aspect that adds to the stray population is people who just abandon animals in the misguided belief that they will be OK. Often this is because the owners circumstances have changed, such as moving home, or having a family etc. But at the end of the day, no matter what the excuse, abandonment is an offence.

The Hastings SPCA receives phone calls every day about stray pets, most notably cats. Often their response confuses or frustrates people, so we would like to explain our role a little more to help understand our policies.

The SPCA is a charity organisation which receives no government funding or support, and depends on fundraising events and community donations to finance the work it does. We have limited resources of; staff, cage space available, man-power, and funds, all of which determine the numbers we are able to assist. Therefore, it is necessary to prioritise and concentrate those resources on the most needy. Care for the sick and injured and cruelty prevention must come first. In fact, SPCAs were established primarily to assist in the prevention of cruelty to animals in our community. Taking in lost animals or strays and rehoming them has been an expectation that society has placed onto the local Shelter and we try to assist where we can, but sometimes, it is simply not possible. Sometimes, we simply have to say there is no room at the inn.

This frustrates people because they feel there is nowhere else to turn, and they are correct. But this is a problem with our society, not with the SPCA.

The other side of the coin is that a stray cat is not always a stray cat. I know this seems strange to say, but many times we have been asked to take in a cat because it is “stray” only to find out that it has a loving family and it just wanders away from home a bit. We have to be careful to avoid this.

Cats can travel a great distance in a day and just because you may not have seen the cat before does not necessarily mean it is lost. You should never feed a “stray” if it looks healthy, as it is likely to be owned, and feeding will just encourage it to keep coming back to you. Many cats enjoy exploring and it could be that cat visiting you is missing its owners who are away on holiday. It may only be seeing their feeder once or twice a day and be out seeking company. Taking a healthy stray cat from its environment means the chances of it being re-united with its owner are greatly diminished. Therefore please do not take offence if you want to bring a healthy stray to the shelter and are asked to return it. It does not mean we do not care, quite the opposite. We have a series of questions we ask to help us try to determine between a cat that just likes visiting neighbours versus a cat that truly needs our help. One of the first questions we ask will be whether you have checked all your neighbours for an owner.

As a pet owner one of the most responsible and caring things you can do for your cat or dog is to have it microchipped. Any vet or SPCA can scan a lost animal for a microchip and then access the owners details, ensuring the pet is speedily re-united with its owner. This helps us confirm that a pet has an owner, and allows a speedy reunion, which is great for all.

Some suggestions when coming across a healthy stray cat:

– DO NOT FEED

– Create flyers with date cat appeared, a brief description, location & your phone number and pop into neighbours letterboxes

– List as found on www.petsonthenet.co.nz

– Check for a microchip with vet or SPCA.

And finally, please remember it is not our role to take in a cat that is simply annoying you by digging holes in your garden or marking territory etc. You should find the owner and speak to him about the problem. Nor is our role to take in an animal that you have cared for some time, even if it started its relationship with you as a stray. Once you have shown care for an animal, it becomes your legal and moral responsibility. This includes rehoming if your situation finds it necessary.

We emphasize once again that we will always take in a sick or injured animal who has no owner. We will always assist animals which are being abused, or who are in danger. This is the main purpose of the SPCA in preventing suffering in animals. Whilst we also try to assist the genuine strays, our resources are limited, and sometimes we simply do not have the money, room or manpower to take them in. If this concerns you, then consider helping us in the work we do, tell the council you are not happy that all the demand falls onto us alone, and have those difficult conversations with anyone you know who not taking acting responsibly with their pet, and adding to the stray problem. The stray problem is everyone’s concern in our community, not just the SPCAs.