News / Vancouver

Cat crisis in Surrey: 20,000 stray and feral cats roam streets

The number of stray and feral cats in Surrey, B.C., has ballooned to crisis proportions, according to animal welfare groups who are calling for more government funding to help get the overpopulation problem under control.

An estimated 20,000 stray and feral cats are roaming Surrey streets, with the population growing each year, according to the Vancouver Orphan Kitten Rescue Association, also known as VOKRA.

Part of the problem is Surrey’s fast growing human population, said Kathy Powelson, executive director of Vancouver-based animal welfare charity Paws for Hope.

 Dr. Shawn Llewellyn, veterinarian at Scottsdale Veterinary Hospital in Surrey, and a veterinary health technician provide a stray cat with a check-up and vaccination on Sept. 28, 2014.

Dr. Shawn Llewellyn, veterinarian at Scottsdale Veterinary Hospital in Surrey, and a veterinary health technician provide a stray cat with a check-up and vaccination on Sept. 28, 2014.

“There are likely larger sectors of low income families in Surrey who may not have the funds to be able to spay and neuter their pets,” she told Metro. “Their cats aren’t feral but they are free roaming, which does contribute to the overpopulation problem.”

The growing issue has led to five Metro Vancouver animal welfare groups joining forces to form the Surrey Community Cat Coalition, which aims to combat the cat overpopulation problem and improve conditions for cats living on the street.

The coalition is holding an event Nov. 2 at Scottsdale Veterinary Hospital where veterinarian Dr. Shawn Llewellyn and volunteers will spay and neuter over 30 Surrey cats.

In recent years, efforts from VOKRA to neuter and release cats have been successful in controlling Vancouver’s stray and feral cat population.

But the group hasn’t been able to get a handle on Surrey’s cat problem, mostly due to limited funding, said Marlene Dunbrack, a volunteer trapper for VOKRA in Surrey.

VOKRA applied for community grant funding from the city of Surrey last September, but the application was not approved, she said.

As a result, she said VOKRA’s Vancouver branch is shouldering the cost of the group's Surrey operations.

“We were very disappointed because we are the only organization in all of Surrey that’s doing any trapping of ferals and trying to address the problem,” Dunbrack said.

Stray and feral cats not only live harsh lives, with a lack of food, water, exposure to extreme weather, disease and endless pregnancy cycles, but they can also be a nuisance for residents, said Dunbrack.

“We get calls about ... cat fights, cats that are spraying because they’re marking their territory on their bushes and cars,” she said. “If their own cats are indoor or outdoor, sometimes there will be a stray cat fighting their cat.”

The problem has VOKRA encouraging cat owners to get their animals fixed, said Dunbrack.

“The main thing is people need to spay and neuter their own cats,” she said. “People shouldn’t be adopting cats unless they can afford to spay and neuter them.”

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