Related News

Home » Feature » Animal Planet

Saving strays one cat at a time

FEEDING stray cats in her Shanghai neighborhood has become the biggest time killer for 55-year-old He Qian since she retired years ago. Today she has one more task - taking these adult stray cats to the nearby animal clinic to be spayed.

"Without sterilization, these stray cats will have an uncontrolled population growth. And, with limited resources and living space, they will not be able to live well in the city," said He, who shelters up to 30 stray cats in her home.

In the past two years, she has successfully had more than 70 stray cats - almost all the stray cats in her compound - neutered, thanks to the free stray cat sterilization offered by Aiqi Animal Clinic, as part of an initiative launched by the Shanghai Small Animal Protection Association (SSAPA) in 2009 to control the stray cat population.

About 20 animal clinics in five districts joined the trial program to carry out basic sterilization free of charge, which usually costs 250 yuan to 300 yuan (US$38.8-46.5), said Zhang Yi, founder of the SSAPA.

Statistics released by SSAPA showed 500 or so stray cats were spayed and neutered citywide last year. The campaign seemed to yield more encouraging results as an estimated number of 400 stray cats were sterilized in the first half of this year.

As the city's population increases, man and animals are forced to live more closely. This is a problem for a city where the majority of the residents regard stray animals as "pests."

The Shanghai Botanical Garden once said that they were concerned the large number of stray cats in their premises might deter visitors, as the visiting children run the risk of being scratched.

Another contributing factor to the large population of stray cats is irresponsible owners who dump their unwanted pets in parks and gardens after they tire of them. When these abandoned cats mate, their population increases exponentially. An un-sterilized cat is estimated to give birth to 42,000 kittens in seven years during its normal reproductive cycle. And, with increasing urbanization, these strays will not have much space to call home.

In the past, animal abuse and cruelty involved mainly cat meat traders or cat haters. But, it has now become a battle between ordinary residents, who are annoyed by their presence, and cat lovers. Many of these residents were people who were previously apathetic to the existence of these strays. Un-spayed cats are known to create a ruckus at night when they are sexually aroused.

In light of this "Strays Living Crisis," animal welfare groups, volunteer cat feeders and veterinarians have teamed up to form animal neutering teams. Previously, they seldom worked together - each concentrated only in their areas of interest.

Jane Saw, board director of SSAPA said in a statement that: "We have a long way to go in terms of creating a proper cat population control program. In Beijing, there are more than 10 volunteer teams and in Hong Kong, the volunteers have to undergo professional training and obtain work permits."

One challenge in implementing and sustaining this program is the lack of funding.

"The cost of sterilizing one stray is 100 yuan, but with de-worming, vaccination and treatment it adds up to more than 200 yuan," added Saw.

Before these teams were formed, the costs were borne by the volunteer cat feeders who are usually female retirees who live frugally. Seeking funds from the community or foundations was difficult too, as many of those approached commented that with limited resources, it would be better to channel them toward human welfare projects.

Although the SSAPA is the city's first registered animal charity, a lack of funding and support has forced it to rely on the pet netizen community in garnering manpower, funding and feed. Founder of the SSAPA, Zhang Yi said: "It has been a great encouragement to us that animal neutering teams have been formed. The problem of controlling the stray cat population is a social issue, one that requires the assistance of many helping hands."


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend