CARMA receives large grant to help spay, neuter feral cats

A volunteer group working to reduce the feral cat population in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia has been awarded a major grant.

Cat Rescue Maritimes, more commonly known as CARMA, has received $35,050 from PetSmart Charities.

The money will help CARMA's 13 chapters with the costs of doing 570 neuters and spays throughout the Maritimes.

President Sue Knight says they applied to PetSmart Charities last year for the grant, and were told earlier this year that they were successful.

"I got [the notification] via email, and I will be honest, I cried," says Knight. "I couldn't believe we got such a big amount."

Knight says the grant will cover about half the cost of the neuters and spays, which are about $100 each – the organization will have to come up with the rest.

She says the money is also a big morale boost for the volunteers, who spend countless hours of their time fundraising.

The charity operates trap-neuter-return programs in communities where colonies of stray, abandoned and feral cats are found.

Once a feline has been spayed or neutered, vaccinated and ear-tipped, they're returned to a monitored site where food, water and shelter have been ensured through a signed agreement with the colony caregivers.

Knight says the organization spays and neuters about 3,000 homeless cats in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia each year.

"It's this huge, huge explosion of cats that's going on throughout the province that we're trying to battle," she says. "We're doing our best to work with the colonies to bring down their numbers, but every time we think we're getting ahead, something else pops up."

Knight says ensuring your cat is spayed or neutered is just one way to, as former Price is Right host Bob Barker would say, "help control the pet population."

She says if you decide you can't look after your furry little feline anymore, you should surrender it to a local SPCA.

"There's just too many cats being abandoned out there and, as a result, that's where the kittens are starting to come from or then form the colonies," says Knight. "Also, if you want to take a cat into your house, please go to an animal shelter or contact a CARMA group because you will be adopting a cat that's already been neutered and spayed, as well as vaccinated."

CARMA has also launched a survey on its website in an effort to determine just how big the homeless cat population is in New Brunswick and where the colonies exist.

Knight says the more data the group has, the more pressure they can put on government to develop a provincial strategy to better solve the issue.