NOW magazine Toronto

Media: NOW Magazine Toronto, December 2011

I resolve to help feral kittens
By Joshua Errett

It dawned on me recently that I’m not a very good human being. I don’t give to charity, always forget birthdays, never call my mother and usually leave parties without saying goodbye to anyone.

My only contribution to society, I realized, is that I’ve saved the lives of countless kittens.

In 2012, I resolve to save more.

Conservatively, there are 100,000 homeless felines in the city. There are 6 million reasons to reduce that number.

One is that the cats that survive our brutal winter lead a wretched existence. They’re starved and disease-ridden. They fight predators for their lives. They live one or two years. For humans, witnessing all this amounts to torture.

Another is that while they are alive, they behave like savages, killing birds, squirrels and other animals and causing millions of dollars’ worth of property damage. They produce volumes of kittens who continue this disruptive tradition.

If these arguments don’t compel you to join my rescue mission to help control the feral population, there’s this: cats are our responsibility.

We entered into a contract with them 10,000 years ago to care for one another – a pact still binding today.

Furthermore, cats and humans are inseparable. Choose any feral cat on the street and trace its family history. There’s a near 100 per cent chance that somewhere in history its ancestors and yours shared a home.

Responsibility aside, taking action to stop the vicious cat cycle is personally rewarding.

Every single creature I get spayed or neutered prevents another generation of suffering ferals.

At the end of October, my wife and I were walking to the grocery store when we heard the screeches of a cat fight in a neighbouring yard. I looked over the fence and saw three cats and two kittens about size of my palm. They were so malnourished, they looked more like Gremlins than cats.

The property owners didn’t care much about them and gave us a week to get them out of their yard.

We arranged for a volunteer from Annex Cat Rescue to help us trap the creatures – trap, neuter, return – and relocate them. (I can’t say where. Printing the location is an invitation for cat murderers to do them harm, believe it or not.)

We rescued the kittens and had the two older cats spayed/neutered. We released back into the wild, ears clipped to show they’d been fixed.

Now these cats belong to the neighbourhood. They live in a space generously donated by my grocery store, in shelters we built at the Humane Society. Three shifts of neighbours help me feed them.

It’s a not perfect situation. I have no idea what will happen come spring when the grocery store has to use the space again, or if the shelters will even be warm enough in winter – but it feels wonderful to help these magnificent animals make a better life for themselves.

So, sure, I could tip more in restaurants or stop shoplifting from the bulk bin at my grocery store or start replying to emails. But I don’t think any of those good deeds has as much impact as helping those cats – and their kittens, and their kittens’ kittens – out of misery.

Here’s to a happy new year to all of the city’s feral cats. May you be fixed, fed and fulfilled in 2012.

Want to help? Go to TorontoStreetCats.com.

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