The extraordinary yet very sad story of our efforts in 2022 to save homeless cats in CSL and beyond
December 20, 2022
Wearing my hat as the city councillor responsible for Animal Welfare, let me give my annual salute to Diane Liebling. A retired nurse, she has devoted so much of her life over the past decade to chair our Côte Saint-Luc Cats Committee, which oversees a TNR (Trap, Neuter, Return, Maintain) program and find homes and medical care for homeless cats and kittens.
Let me just remind readers how much I absolutely love cats. Our own Cleopatra is now 13 and a true member of our family. I am crazy about her!!
As Diane notes, “2022 has been, perhaps, the most challenging one I have ever witnessed. Due to COVID, the vet clinics cut back on their hours, thereby creating a backlog of cats that needed desperately to be seen. The SPCA halted their TNR program for a significant amount of time resulting in a huge increase in the cat population, which will take years to resolve. While it may seem that the issues related to the SPCA are of no concern to us, this is not true. While we are not part of the SPCA TNR program, it is not difficult to see how we are impacted. Cats do not respect boundaries and I am certain I have picked up stray, wandering cats from NDG, Montreal West, Hampstead, and other surrounding areas.”
Starting in March 2020, and moving well into 2022, Diane reports that the increase in cat abandonment has been rising and she has picked up several abandoned cats. Most of the veterinary clinics, including the Côte Saint Luc Hospital For Animals, have increased their prices.
In 2021, the cost for TNR cats was increased by 10 percent. “It may not seem like a lot but it definitely adds up,” Diane explains. There is a severe shortage of veterinarians in this province and salaries, I imagine, have gone up to compensate for this. Additionally, the cost of cat food has gone up by at least 15 to 20 percent. We supply many colony feeders in CSL and it is unrealistic to ask them to bear the brunt of the cost themselves. Our adoption fees have steadily climbed over the last number of years but this hardly every covers the true cost of care, especially for a cat with medical issues.”
Diane highlights a few sad cases we had in CSL this year.
- In May, a 97-year-old woman died on Kingsley Road, leaving behind her 13-year-old cat. “Lucky” (sadly not very Lucky) was brought to the CSL Vet Clinic where she was literally unapproachable for two weeks. She had extreme “cage rage,” which is an awful thing to witness in a previously owned and loved cat. Of course, our committee paid for boarding. Fortunately, one of Diane’s rescue friends found her a foster and she is doing much better in a home. We actually used “Vet chez Vous,” a CSL based veterinary service which does home visits exclusively to go to the checkup.
- In early July this year Diane received a call from a CSL Public Security officer regarding a situation on Heywood. This was for a resident who was brought to hospital leaving behind his two owned cats as well as several outdoor feral cats he has been feeding (with our support) for many years. “I was told the apartment was uninhabitable and had I not seen it first hand for myself, I am not sure I would believe it,” she said. “I spoke with Building Inspector Pierre Lemay I, along with the committee members, went into the apartment, but not without full Hazmat gear, including goggles, double masks, foot and head coverings and multiple gloves. It is impossible to accurately describe what we found, but was not good. Fortunately, we were able to retrieve his two, extremely traumatized, cats, which went to the vet for a full workup. They went into foster care. One required dental work, which is very expensive.” While there used to be around seven or eight cats outside this apartment, many disappeared, but four still remained. Diane trapped one, who was very sick, and had to be euthanized; two more were relocated to sanctuaries outside of Montreal (there is a cost to this as we have to support them). and one remains still to be trapped.
On the subject of foster care, there were several strays that Diane picked up in CSL this year, along with the two cats on Heywood. “These were cats that were 100 percent owned and abandoned,” she fumed. “While in foster care, we are obliged to pay the cost for food and litter.”
- The final very sad story. In the summer Diane was alerted to a beautiful Scottish Fold in someone’s backyard on Cavendish Boulevard. Fortunately the son of the homeowners brought him to one of her amazing fosters. Despite posting “Doc’” all over Facebook, the SPCA and Pawboost, no one came forward to claim him. He had two very expensive vet visits and it was quickly determined he had end-stage kidney failure. “My foster and I knew he was not doing well but we were not quite prepared for him to die suddenly,” she says. “Fortunately he died inside with loving care…it would have been a very different story had he not been brought inside. It was extremely traumatizing for my foster.
Our committee, thanks to Diane, has become quite well known on the island and are a shining example of what can be done when a municipality like Côte Saint-Luc takes it upon themselves to address and support an important program. “Many rescuers/TNR trappers I know would love to have the program we have but, without their city approval, it is impossible,” proclaims Diane. “They are completely dependent on the SPCA, if their area is covered, and the SPCA TNR program stops periodically due to staffing shortages.”
Since COVID hit, we have not held our annual fundraising concert. We hope it will return outdoors next summer. One of our fosters, Karin, is selling calendars to benefit our program (as well as Hearing, Entendre Quebec). The cost is $25 each. Every calendar is accompanied by a cute cat toy or pin, while supplies last.
“Honestly, I could not do what I am doing without Karin,” says Diane. “She has fostered numerous cats and kittens for us and right now she has had one of our cats for 10 months. Long story short, this was a cat trapped on Beethoven and the vet was certain this was a previously owned social) cat because of her evident external spay scar. Well, if she was an indoor cat at some point, she has completely reverted to feral and is/was a traumatized disaster. She is getting better, but progress is slow. I don't know if she is ever going to be adoptable, but Karin never bothers me about her. She has just made her one of her family; maybe one day she'll be adopted, but who knows?”
Thank goodness Diane and her diehards, like Ronnie, Ellen, Abby and others, continue to step up to the plate. “I will say that this has been the most challenging year in cat rescue, and that is putting it mildly,” she says. “Unless you are on Facebook and see the utter chaos and devastation going on in cat rescue, it is impossible to describe. I cannot emphasize enough how brutal it is for tens of thousands of cats in this province. The level of abandonment has never been higher. Kittens are being born year round because of climate change. An unspayed female who used to have two litters a year is now having four.
We are grateful to the city for providing us with a budget ,as well as the continued support from our MNA for D'Arcy McGee, David Birnbaum previously and now Elisabeth Prass. Hats off as well to Fern Collier-Pereira and her team for continuing to organize garage sales.
If you are interested in joining our committee, e-mail me at email@example.com