Did you know that spaying/neutering just one feral cat can prevent anywhere from 100 – 5,000 kittens from being born into harsh conditions where they are at risk of food scarcity, disease and predators?! Here’s how. Cats can begin to breed at just six months old. On average, female cats can produce 1.5 litters per year, with an average litter size of 4 kittens. For feral cats, even though many kittens may not survive to reproduce, research shows that without human intervention, 2 unsterilized cats and their offspring can produce anywhere from 100–5,000 kittens in seven years.
The SPCA’s TNR (Trap, Neuter, Return) Program has been working to improve the lives of feral cats and stop unwanted litters. Since its inception in 2016, the Nova Scotia SPCA has been pleased to support TNR, helping an average of over 1,500 cats a year. This achievement is only possible with the dedication of staff, volunteers, and local rescue groups who work tirelessly to trap, transport, and care for feral cats pre-and post-surgery, and to foster and socialize kittens and friendly cats that are rescued.
Here’s the story of one TNR kitten’s journey………On November 5, 2018, a TNR team brought a group of feral cats and kittens to the Dartmouth Shelter. The kitten was approximately 3 months old and generally healthy when she arrived at the shelter. Shelter staff named her Taffy. After being spayed, Taffy was taken to the TNR Recovery Centre. Because she was still young and showed adoption potential, Taffy was placed into a foster home for a month where she was loved, cared for, and socialized before she was ready to find her forever home.
Taffy became available for adoption on December 8, and it didn’t take long before this special girl was scooped up! Her fur-mom Tami Meredith filled me in. “I had just returned to Halifax after being in B.C. for a year and wanted to find a furry roommate. I’d had cats all my life and know the joy they bring to your home. So, I paid a visit to the Dartmouth shelter in search of the purr-fect feline companion.”
Tami related “I took my close friend and her son, age 3, with me. It was interesting to see how the cats reacted to a sweet innocent child. Taffy instantly decided he was trustworthy. Watching the two of them interact told me all I needed to know – she was good-tempered, curious, playful and a little purr machine. I was smitten!”
Tami knew that patience was key to helping Taffy adjust to her new home. She explained “Making Taffy feel safe was easy – I gave her all the space and freedom she needed. I let her make all the decisions and she told me when she felt safe. I always let her come to me and didn’t disturb her as she explored and became comfortable in her new environment. I tried different feeding times and different litter box locations, until her behaviours told me what she preferred. One evening, about 2 months after I adopted her, I was lying on the couch reading and she jumped up onto me, curled up and started purring, letting me know she trusted me.”
Tami wanted to give Taffy got a new name for her new start in life. “It took me a while to pick the purr-fect name for my girl,” shared Tami. “As part of the TNR program, her left ear was slightly clipped to provide a visual signal that she had been spayed. It gives her a slightly quirky, adorable ‘misfit’ appearance. She’s very playful and loves to be a bit mischievous. The day I heard a crash, went into the living room and saw her looking up at me, one ear shorter than the other and a shattered plant pot by her paws, my ‘mischievous misfit’ had let me know exactly what she should be called – Missy.”
Missy is definitely living her best life. “Watching the birds outside from her cat tree and just observing the world is perhaps her favorite thing (well, other than mealtime!),” chuckled Tami. “The house is full of her toys and her scratching post is replaced annually due to her enjoyment of it! Every morning, I wake up with her beside me in bed. If I’m sick, she’s always there for me.”
Vestiges of Missy’s life as a semi-feral kitten remain. Tami related that “She is afraid of strangers and tends to ‘disappear’ when guests come over, checking them out from a distance and taking the time to determine if they are ‘good people.’ She took her time deciding if I was her human, but once she did, she became an affectionate, loving, and loyal companion. Oh, the other sign that I’m officially her human is that she never really learned to be careful with her claws and I’m always sporting evidence of this fact!”
“My happy moments with Missy are frequent and daily,” shared Tami. “Her antics always bring smiles and laughter. The SPCA’s TNR Program saved her life. She was young, healthy, and smart enough to survive for some time, but the hardships would eventually have killed her. Today she is a playful, cuddly and sweet four-year old who is totally happy in her forever home. I can open the door and all she does is peek out, likely because she prefers the warmth and safety of a loving home to the challenges of surviving in the wild. I know Missy will be at my side for the rest of her life.”
Prepare for cuteness. Here are more sweet anecdotes that Tami shared about Missy.
The Social Media Darling
When Covid struck, I began to work from home and teach my classes online. All my students knew I had a cat because Missy would be on my desk during lectures, sleeping on my keyboard, batting at my hands as I tried to type, and generally being her usual playful self. During one class, she walked across the keyboard, hitting some random combination of keys that muted my microphone. It wasn’t until one of the students sent me a text message a few minutes later that I realized they hadn’t heard a word I’d said for several minutes!
The Cat(nip) Burglar
I was at the Annapolis farmer’s market one Saturday where I purchased an envelope of organic catnip and brought it home for her. It had been a long day and I was tired, so I didn’t think and left it on the kitchen table. The next morning, when I woke up, there was a torn envelope on the floor and the catnip was everywhere, with Missy sleeping contently in the middle of the mess.
The Purr-fect Hostess
I’ve recently taken in a friend’s cat who was being scared by another cat in their household. Missy has been the perfect hostess, letting our guest visit the food bowl first when I put it out each morning. She has never reacted aggressively, always walking off when our guest feels threatened, keeping the peace and being a good friend. I knew the morning I woke up and found one cat on each side of my pillow that my Missy had helped our little fraidy-cat guest feel safe!
Want to be part of the TNR Program? Click here to volunteer to assist with trapping, transporting and caring for feral cats. To report feral cats needing assistance, contact the SPCA: firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-844-835-4798. If you’re interested in providing food for or managing cat colonies, contact the SPCA and together with local rescue groups, they can provide advice and support. To support TNR activities, please donate today.