Source: CBC (Extract)
Posted: February 4, 2023

While many New Brunswickers hunker down at home to wait out the extreme cold blowing through the province, feral cats may not have a place to go.

Jo-Ann Cook, founder of Gracie’s Feral Cat Rescue in Miramichi, said she’s worried about the area’s large feral cat population during the cold weather. Based on figures provided by the SPCA, she estimates there’s at least 10,000 feral cats in and around Miramichi.

Cook went out Thursday and Friday to try and trap some of the cats and get them protected from the wind chill, which is expected to sink as low as -40.

The organization’s members normally spay, neuter and release cats in the winter, but they don’t trap.

This weekend, Cook said they wanted to make sure they got as many cats indoors as possible.

She was able to trap a few cats during the week, but as the temperatures plummeted on Friday, she couldn’t find many, including two kittens she was looking for.

She’s assuming they had already found shelter.

Cook said 75 per cent of kittens die before they turn one, whether it be from the cold or other animals.

Some cats are going under minihomes or in sheds or holes, wherever they can get shelter, she said. So even if some of the feral cats survive, many of them will have frostbite.

“The smart ones who have a good place to go will hunker down together and curl up together and hopefully stay warm,” said Cook.

The rescue’s “poster boy,” Scruffy, was trapped a few years ago and now lives with Cook’s daughter. Cook said he took three years to capture. He had ear mites and one of his ears was frostbitten.

“If you see these cats and what they look like, it’ll make you cry,” said Cook. “And Scruffy was one of those cats but he was saved.”

She said the feral cat colonies in the Miramichi area are spread out, but she notices a lot of them in rural outlying areas like Loggieville and Nelson.

How to help

If people see feral cats out during the cold snap, Cook said there are a few things they can do to try and help.

If they’re able to trap or get hold of the cats, putting them in a spare room or garage could get them through the cold period.

If the cats can’t be picked up or caught, Cook said a tote bag lined with styrofoam and filled with straw could act as an insulated hide-out for the cats that are left outside. But a jacket or blanket wouldn’t work like straw does because it absorbs the cold.

She said if those things are not possible, cracking the door to a shed would give the cat a place to curl up.

“So that’s what I would ask people to do if they could, if they had the means to do it,” said Cook. “Because these animals don’t stand a chance in this weather.”