Dogs may be man’s best friend, but cats reign as the most popular pet in Canada.
“I always considered myself a dog person,” says Audrey Green, 61. “However, I work full-time and there was no way I could take care of one. Then I saw Ruby and I instantly fell in love.”
Green adopted Ruby as a kitten from a cat rescue organization last year. “From the moment I saw her, it was love at first sight,” she says. “I never had a cat of my own before, but now I can’t imagine life without her.”
When Green walks in the door, Ruby is there to greet her and make her laugh. “She has her own mat in the kitchen where I keep her food bowl,” she says. “One day, we were both eating and suddenly she dragged the entire mat closer to my chair so we could eat side by side! People don’t realize just how wonderful cats are or what good company they can be.”
Green has trained Ruby to give kisses, especially when she wants to eat. “She taps me on the face. It’s so sweet,” she says. “I have three grown children and two grandchildren, but Ruby is my fur-baby.”
Jerry Solomon, 72, and his wife Gloria have been providing a home for elderly and infirm cats since they both retired. “Cats are such beautiful creatures,” he says. “We adopt the ones that have been living out their years in a cage.”
There’s no shortage of cats who need a home, something the couple realized they could easily provide. “They fit in well with our lifestyle,” he says. “We don’t have to walk them, and if we’re gone for a few hours, we know they’re fine at home. When we return, there’s all these lovely little faces waiting for us.”
The couple now has four cats, ranging from ages six to 16. “Our youngest, Polo, came from our vet’s office,” he says. “His owners wanted to put him down because he had a broken leg, but he was only four. So, we took over and now he’s as good as new.”
Adopting an older animal may involve more health issues, but this isn’t necessarily so, he adds. “We adopted our first senior at age 11 and she lived until 19,” he says. “Senior pets are special. They’re grateful for a warm bed, regular food and someone to care about them. It’s not so different than with people.”
Despite their popularity, cats – both stray pets and feral felines – also make up the largest population of homeless pets in Canada. “Feral cats have reverted to a wild state and can’t get used to human contact,” says animal advocate Lydia Carter.
To address the problem, changes need to be made, starting with spay/neuter laws and prosecuting people who abandon animals – a crime in Canada that is rarely enforced. “Another issue is that many landlords or seniors residences in Quebec don’t allow animals, which can force people to give up their pet,” adds Carter.
Then there’s the mentality that animals are disposable. “Sometimes students adopt a cat to keep them company,” she says. “Then when they go back home, they discard them like they’re a piece of furniture.”
In the community of Côte-St-Luc, the CSL Cats Committee addresses the problem of homeless cats with their Trap, Neuter, Return, Maintain (TNRM) program. “We call the feral population community cats now,” says chair Diane Liebling. “We re-release them with assurance from the resident that they will feed, water and shelter the cat for the rest of its natural life. Some residents have been feeding the same cats for years.”
The committee holds a Food for Felines fundraiser every November to February to collect food and/or funds. They also provide Styrofoam shelters to help the homeless cats survive Quebec winters. “There’s no question that every cat deserves a home,” says Leibling. “But if they can’t have one, they still deserve to be treated with love, care and dignity.”
If you’d like to make a difference in a cat’s life, visit your local shelter.
The CSL Cat Committee can be reached at 514-485-6800 ext. CATS (2287).