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This article was published 2/4/2011 (3696 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Winnipeg's stray-cat population has literally run wild, according to animal-welfare advocates who estimate the number of feral felines roaming city streets is more than 50,000.
Cat advocate Lynne Scott said Winnipeg's stray-cat overpopulation problem is massive and the city's animal bylaws are too "antiquated" to properly address the problem. Scott runs a program that traps strays to take them to veterinary clinics to be spayed and neutered. Once healed, the animals are returned to the area where they were found.
Scott said the method eventually reduces over-breeding by about 30 per cent in two years, since one female cat can produce an average of six litters a year, with about seven kittens in each litter. However, Scott said her program is limited and there is no citywide strategy to curb the exploding wild-cat population.
Scott estimates there are between 50,000 and 100,000 feral cats running wild through city neighbourhoods. Those trapped by the city's animal services usually can't be adopted. Most end up euthanized.
"It's a huge issue," Scott said. "They're everywhere. Every neighbourhood has them." This week, city council's protection and community services committee will ask city administration to research the feral-cat problem and report back on how best to deal with it later this fall.
St. Vital Coun. Gord Steeves, who chairs the committee, said feral cats are a problem in some areas of Winnipeg and he's noticed an "exponential" increase in the number of people requesting excess-animal permits to care for stray cats.
Earlier this year, the city granted Lyle Lay and his common-law wife, Sheri Spencer, an excess-animal permit to keep 30 cats in their two-storey, side-by-side home in Fort Rouge. The couple accumulated the cats after picking up strays and taking in cats other families no longer wanted.
In 2010, the city granted River Heights resident Nancy Swaine an excess-animal permit for 26 cats after she argued she was on a mission to clean up the uncontrolled cat population at the University of Manitoba.
While they may be well-intentioned cat lovers, Steeves said this is not the best way to address the problem, noting the permits have sparked a backlash in some neighbourhoods.
"In certain parts of our city, it's a big problem," Steeves said. "Unfortunately, a lot of (cats) are euthanized."
Steeves estimates Winnipeg euthanizes between 2,000 and 3,000 stray cats every year.
Scott said wild cats typically roam in areas near Winnipeg's rivers, where they have access to food such as rodents. Wolseley, parts of St. Vital, St. Boniface and the North End have a huge population of feral cats, Scott said. Residents often notice cat spray and hear them fighting for mates.
"The number of homeless cats on the streets is overwhelming," said D'Arcy Johnston, director of D'Arcy's A.R.C. animal rescue care centre.