One of our founding members, Lynne Maynard, took great efforts early on in our inception to find a home for NAPS. A place for cold and hungry strays to rest their heads and fill their bellies while she searched for their forever homes. The society originally formed in 2003 after several Nanton residents noticed a need for animal welfare.
By 2007, Lynne was relieved and grateful to have the support of local businessman Kin Leong, owner of Mountain Top Foods. He happened to have an empty trailer sitting on his property, of which he offered to NAPS. And so began the lease of the trailer NAPS would call home for the next 10 years. The generosity of Mr. Leong in our time of need has never been forgotten, and has helped us to have an incredible impact on the lives of countless abandoned, homeless and feral animals.
Our Current Home
The Leong trailer is roughly 600 sq feet of space, and if you've ever been in the shelter, you'll know that while it isn't cosmetically appealing, it does a good job of providing enough comfortable living space for around 25-30 cats at its fullest. There is a small "medical isolation room" used to monitor cats with illness, and a small supply storage room used to store dishes, medical supplies, food, bedding, and more. Lastly, there is an open concept space, where the shelters residents are uncaged, and free to roam as they would in a home setting. The cats are entirely free-roaming, choosing to eat/drink/sleep where and when they please. There are various cat tree's and sleeping spots, windows for natural light and bird watching, and tons of toys donated by our loyal supporters. There is even an outdoor cat run where when weather permits, the cats can lay in the sun and chase bugs.
A shelter resident enjoying the outdoor cat aviary.
Trouble at Home
By this time, you may be wondering why NAPS is looking to move. While the building has been a blessing, it also has its draw backs.
We are unsure of the original use of the building, or even when it was built. What we do know is that there is no running water or sewage access. For almost a decade volunteers have been carting in fresh water, required for cleaning, and drinking water for the animals. We have been able to make due over the years, however a real and pressing concern for keeping things sterile and safe for our volunteers and the animals exists. We have had to rely heavily on frequent sterilization with chemicals to ensure we are preventing the spread of disease and keeping things sanitary. No running water also means no bathroom, which has been more than an inconvenience for volunteers working at the shelter for lengthy periods of time or even for potential adopters.
Other draw backs of the facility include a lack of proper insulation. During the winter months, even with the furnace in working order, the water in the drinking bowls has been known to freeze, leaving cats with no water source between volunteer work shifts.
Attempts to replace windows and reduce heat loss have been made difficult by the overall deterioration of the structure.
Our Medical Isolation Room - Just two kennels for new arrivals, no ventilation, and just one small window for sun light.
The cosmetic issues with our current home are more than just an eye sore. Wood paneling and floors make it hard to sterilize surfaces. Lack of proper ventilation makes things dusty frequently, and can contribute to health issues with the animals living in the shelter. Keeping the interior temperature manageable through the seasons can be difficult as well.
Not Enough Space
The medical isolation room mentioned is small, and can house only two adult cats at a time, or a mother and litter of nursing kittens. This is a set back, in that animals newly surrendered to NAPS are to be housed separately from the general population for two weeks to ensure they are healthy and their vaccines have taken affect. If both kennels in the isolation room are in use, NAPS must turn away any new intakes until those cages become available again. This is especially trying during kitten season, when NAPS can see as many as 10 separate litters of kittens over a 2 month period. NAPS turns away multiple surrender requests each month as a result of our lack of space to take in more animals at one time.
The shelter's 600 sq feet of space can legally hold 33 cats at one time according to the Alberta Humane Society standards. This may seem like a large number to most, but those who are familiar with the industry can tell you that this is only a small portion of animals in need of our help. NAPS accepts intakes from High River, Cayley, Nanton, Parkland, Vulcan, Milo, Claresholm, Champion, Lethbridge and the rural areas in between. Depending on the time of year, we are approached between 5 and 15 times a month to take in surrenders or trap strays in the mentioned areas. While there are several other shelters operating in close proximity to us, these shelters are often at capacity and are overwhelmed with the level of need in their respective areas. Often times, someone who has been turned away by other area shelters will come to NAPS as a last resort.
The Nanton Animal Protection Society may seem to focus primarily on felines. This is not by choice. Our current home does not allow us to safely house multiple species. There is no safe and humane way to keep canines in the building without risking the health and mental well being of the felines already in our care.
With a larger facility, we could then extend our reach to other animals, such as dogs, reptiles, birds and other exotics, horses and other farm animals, all without having to put pressure on foster homes. At this time, NAPS must search for adequate foster homes for animals that cannot be housed in our facility. If a foster home cannot be arranged, NAPS is forced to turn the surrendered animal away.
Two orphaned kittens requiring frequent bottle feedings were surrendered to NAPS after being found under a shed with no mom. They were placed in foster care with a local family who helps NAPS out.
Time to Make a Change
Year after year, the need for NAPS has increased as the population of Nanton increases. Our small facility is no longer meeting the needs of the community and surrounding areas, and we are bursting at the seams.
NAPS needs a new home!
See Part 2 for details on our search for a new home!
This NAPS Blog Post was written by Shelter Manager & NAPS Director Kim Williamson
Nanton - a beautiful southern Alberta town of 2100 people located on the edge of the foothills. Sounds like a great place right?
Well let's say each of those 2100 people had one cat. That's a lot of cats, but let's take it one step further and say that 5% of those cats are not spayed or neutered. Now what happens to that original number?
On average a female cat of reproductive age (6 months) will have four kittens per litter. And 2-3 litters per year. That mother cat and her kittens are capable of producing up to 420,000 kittens in seven years.
Sounds almost unimaginable. Well that community of 2100 people would quickly become a community of 2100 people and 5800 cats in 1 year if only 5% were unaltered (spayed/neutered). Unfortunately it is very common.
What We Know
Research shows that on average in Canada in 2011 there were 10.2 million cats owned. This equates to about one owned cat for every three Canadian residents. 37.7% of all Canadian households owned a cat with an average number of 1.9 cats per household. Based on market research 80% of owned cats have been sterilized, leaving 20% unaltered. However, while Canadians enjoy cat ownership, conservatively more than 150,000 cats were surrendered to shelters in 2011. More alarmingly, when data on Homeless-Sheltered cats that did not find a new home is extrapolated to include all potential shelters it is more likely that 638,875 cats in Canada languished - either waiting in shelters or facing euthanasia. This is where the cat overpopulation problem and the crisis facing those looking after the problem becomes very real.
What Is The Solution?
At this point, if large-scale, targeted action is not taken, the cat overpopulation problem will worsen. There is no one person or group responsible for the problem or finding the solution – it is truly a community problem that requires a community effort to resolve. To significantly reduce cat overpopulation in Canada the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies urges shelters, municipalities, rescues, TNR groups, veterinarians, all communities and any individual who values cats to take the steps necessary to reduce the cat overpopulation problem starting with:
• Accessible spay/neuter surgeries
• Increased adoption strategies
• Humane education
• Adequately funded enforcement
• Responsible pet ownership
If these steps are not taken, a community will be faced with not only a rapid increase in the cat population but also with the surrounding consequences. Some of those consequences include;
What Can YOU Do To Help?
Research shows that Road traffic accidents (RTAs) are a common cause of injury and death for outdoor-access cats. Olsen and Allen (2001) found that 51% of outdoor-access cats that suddenly and unexpectedly died were the result of RTAs, and Rochlitz et al. (2001) found that RTAs were the fourth most common cause of death for cats after old age, cancer, and renal failure. This research is based upon a 'controlled' population of cats. One can only imagine how much high that statistic would be if the population was out of control.
To prevent needless feline deaths, NAPS encourages cat owners to keep their cats indoors, or outdoors only with supervision or the aid of cat leashes. Some people even use Cat Aviaries built off a window or door in their home.
Another way to help reduce needless suffering of felines in Nanton is to ensure that any outdoor cats you have are sterilized. As mentioned above, stray and feral populations can grow to unmanageable numbers in no time. You can help ease the burden on Nanton by preventing your cat from adding to our stray/feral population.
What NAPS Is Doing
Our volunteers and affiliated veterinary clinics have been working tirelessly for years to have a meaningful impact on the stray/feral population in Nanton. Our TNR (trap/neuter/release) program takes in close to 80 cats and kittens annually. When these cats cant be adopted out to loving families, we will sterilize them, tattoo them and release them on co-operating farms or back into town. We have the financial resources and the dedication to take on even more stray/feral animals annually. BUT we lack an adequate facility to process more animals than we already are. We are actively raising funds to build a facility which could help us have an even larger impact on this community. At this time, the Town of Nanton Council has not been able to provide us with a suitable land lease option, but has repeatedly entertained proposals. A recent effort to purchase town own land was rejected by council as well. Stay tuned for a future blog post which will detail our search for a home.
Are There Benefits to Feral Colonies In Town?
An established, stable, sterilized and vaccinated colony will deter other stray cats from moving into the area. This decreases the risk that residents and their pets will encounter an unvaccinated/unaltered animal and will virtually eliminate behaviors such as fighting, spraying and yowling. Cats vaccinated for Rabies create a buffer zone between wildlife and the public which greatly reduces Nantons residents risk of contracting Rabies.
Feral cats also help keep the rodent population under control. They wont hunt them into extinction but they will keep the numbers low and prevent more rodents from moving into the area.
Lastly, a healthy cat colony can help ease the burden on area shelters, greatly reducing the number of animals housed in shelters which has a positive impact on shelter animals quality of life and overall health. It is also statistically shown that non crowded shelters have higher adoption rates.
HELP US Spread The Word
NAPS needs your help to get this message across to Nanton residents and Town of Nanton officials.
Show your support for NAPS and our efforts to keep Nanton a healthy and safe place for all its residents and their pets.
This blog post was written by
Kristen Mills - Veterinary Technician/NAPS Director
& Kim Williamson - NAPS Director/Shelter Manager