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No more cats

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It is the end of an era on Parliament Hill.

The cat sanctuary is no more.

The cat sanctuary was born out of a rodent-control plan that until the mid-1950s saw cats employed as mouse-catchers. In 1955 the cats were put out of work by the introduction of chemicals to control rodents but dozens of the cats were still around.

For more than five decades, volunteers faithfully tended to the cats. At first it was Parliament Hill groundskeepers who fed them, but in the 1970s, a volunteer named Irene Desormeaux, took over their care. She was joined by Rene Chartrand in the 1980s and he took over fully from Irene when she died in 1987.

Chartrand even built cold weather shelters to house the cats. More recently other volunteers replaced the shelters with two-story insulated versions. A local Ottawa animal hospital spayed and neutered them. Purina donated food. And volunteers kept coming to feed and look after the animals, day after day.

The cats were a big tourist attraction, often one of the highlights of a tour of the Hill. 

The cats still have a Facebook page devoted to them.

As recently as a decade ago there were still at least 30 cats in the colony, but spaying and neutering reduced the population significantly. Just before Christmas there were just four cats left. Public Works decided to shut down the sanctuary the last week of December, and volunteers have adopted the final animals.

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About Mia Rabson

Mia Rabson is a born and bred Winnipegger whose interest in politics seemed clear when she dressed up as Prime Minister Brian Mulroney for Halloween in the 7th grade.

Her interest in writing was no surprise to her parents, who learned early in Mia’s life that no piece of blank paper — or wall, for that matter — was safe in her hands.

She holds an honours BA in English from Queen’s University, a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Western Ontario, and has completed a political journalism fellowship in Washington, D.C. with the Washington Centre for Politics and Journalism.

Prior to working for the Winnipeg Free Press, Mia briefly worked for the Detroit News in the paper’s Washington bureau.

Mia joined the Free Press team in February 2001, and in April 2001 was appointed to the Manitoba legislature bureau. In December 2004, she was appointed bureau chief at the legislature. She became the newspaper’s parliamentary bureau chief/national reporter in Ottawa in January 2008.

In 2008 she was nominated for a Michener Award with a team of reporters from the Free Press for its coverage of the province’s child welfare system.

She counts reliving the invasion at Dieppe, France, with veterans of the failed Second World War expedition and overcoming her fear of heights to touch the Golden Boy statue atop the Legislative Building among her favourite experiences as a reporter.

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