Feral cats, wild cats, stray cats – we have many names for the mysterious felines we sometimes see peeking out from under our porch or darting into abandoned buildings. Yet, most of them share a single destiny: short, difficult lives.
Fortunately, groups like the Sooke Animal Food and Rescue Society (SAFARS) help make a difference to more than 50 feral cats in the region.
Every day, Margarita Dominguez and her volunteers visit five cat colonies feeding the hungry felines, sometimes trapping them so the animals can get veterinary care, but often just giving them a loving pet.
“We are always on the go,” Dominguez, president of SAFARS, said.
Feral cats are offsprings of abandoned cats. Feral cats have never lived with human beings and grow up fending for themselves.
According to the BCSPCA, because a female cat can become pregnant as young as 16 weeks of age and go on to have two or three litters a year, the feral cat population – and the problems associated with it – grows and perpetuates. In seven years, a single female cat and its kittens can produce 420,000 more cats.
Dominguez said since her group formed in 2012, the problem is still the same: people breeding cats and selling them as “cheap, cute, coloured fluffy kittens.” The abandoned cat problem arrives when the kittens start getting in heat, and the family cannot afford the thousands of dollars in veterinarian bills.
“At the second or third pregnancy, the mother cat is dumped in some bushes, and she becomes our problem,” Dominguez said.
The animal welfare group spends up to $20,000 for veterinary services such as spay and neutering and relies on community donations for pet food, supplies and monetary donations. It is always in search of foster homes for pregnant cats and farms for feral cats.
SAFARS does not apply for funding from any public organization, such as the District of Sooke or the BCSPCA, over what Dominguez calls too much red tape and “absurd corporate” rules. Her group is not a legal charity.
Dominguez said more help is needed to tame the feral cat problem, and the municipality needs to take more responsibility.
For years she has lobbied for an animal shelter in Sooke only to be turned aside by governing bodies.
“Over the years, every time a family calls us because they need assistance with feral cats that somebody dumped on their land, we run as fast as we can to help,” Dominguez said.
• You can donate pet food at Wiskers and Waggs, Village Food Markets, or at 2075 Otter Point Road. For information on monetary donations, go online to safars.org or phone 778-352-2999.