By: Tina Novotny

Feral and stray cats used to be a significant problem in Georgina, but over the last few years a group of volunteers have worked hard to improve their lives.

Eva McDowell started the Georgina Feral Cat Committee (GFCC) in the fall of 2015 and proudly says that one of the first colonies she and her volunteers targeted for “Trap, Neuter, Return” had no kittens born this past spring.

“It’s a very tough life for feral cats, it can be heartbreaking,” says McDowell. “And abandoned pets really don’t fare well.”

McDowell works with over 30 volunteers, including foster homes, to rescue and rehabilitate around 200 cats per year.

“About half are adopted and half are returned to colonies or located to a barn home.” McDowell says horse barns are ideal homes for treated ferals. “With people coming and going they get tamed and sometimes people who board horses take them home.”

The GFCC is engaged in a two-year pilot project with endorsement from the mayor and town council to tackle the feral cat overpopulation “from Udora to Keswick and everywhere in-between.” They’ve been working so hard, and successfully, that the Town of Georgina recognized the group with the Volunteer Award of Merit bestowed in November 2018.

McDowell is grateful for the support of a wide network of individuals and businesses, such as Pet Valu stores in Keswick, East Gwillimbury and Bradford who hold regular adoption events.

Kittens and cats are also offered for adoption through the GFCC’s Facebook page, and through the websites Petfinder.com and AdoptaPet.com.

The 99th GFCC cat for 2019 has just found a home. The group offers workshops on caring for feral cats and on September 14th will hold a fundraising barbeque at the Zehr’s on Woodbine Avenue in Keswick.

The GFCC spent $40,000 in vet bills last year and because of the cold, damp spring causing poor conditions for feral cats, McDowell is expecting a bigger total this year.

Dr. Patel of the Aurora North Pet Clinic offers reduced rates to the GFCC and they also get veterinary help from the OSPCA and the Toronto Humane Society.

 “All of our cats are spayed or neutered so we can be certain that none of them can ever contribute to the feral population,” says McDowell.

The GFCC doesn’t pinpoint the locations of the colonies to protect both the cats and the volunteers. “We know there are definitely people who trap cats and release them in the countryside and they’re not for the safety of the caregivers either.”

Good thing there are so many more people who support the work of the GFCC. You can donate on their website anytime, and keep an eye out for a clothing and household donation drive to raise funds through Value Village coming later in the fall.

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