Friday May 02, 2014
By PETER BREEN
“And I’ve been putting out fire, with gasoline...”
We’ve seen all the shows, sung along at the musical and even David Bowie wrote a song about them.
The people of Dublin, Ireland and the wider world are truly ‘Cat People’.
Between now and the end of September / early October, the Dublin Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (DSPCA) will be inundated with kittens from concerned Dubliners.
A female cat can breed up to four times a year. For illustrative purposes let’s call the cat in this example Bowie. Each breed can result in the successful birth of six kittens, four of whom may be female. It doesn’t take an astro-physicist to work out the multiplication consequence.
So our spirited moggy has now kick-started a population surge which has now increased from 1 to 72 in the space of just a few months. It’s impossible to work out the population given the huge feral population that are living in colonies, fields or unused construction sites.
A recent study by UCD estimated that over 10% of the Irish population currently owns either one or two domestic cats. It is safe to assume that you can easily quintuple the number of feral cats. Hyperbole aside, there might well be millions of cats running wild across the country!
Sheds, bushes and other sheltered areas are the usual spots where these kittens are born.
In February, the DSPCA ran a series of months for our cat awareness drive, called ‘Feline Friendly February’, which oversaw the neutering of in the region of 250 domesticated and feral cats. The figure might not bowl you over initially, but taken from the above illustration, that means that there are conservatively 18,000 fewer cats in the Dublin population. It was a start, but a positive step forward nonetheless in the battle for population control of the ‘cat conundrum’.
On the other side of the equation is the handful of cases which our inspectors are dealing with on either side of the Liffey.
There is a semi-detached house in south Dublin (address withheld due to ongoing relations with the Department of Social Services and several local authorities) where a middle-aged lady is housing, we estimate, over 120 cats. There may even be more as we haven’t been allowed upstairs in the private property.
These animals are not ‘handlable’ and this extreme hoarding case needs to be managed carefully so as not to stress the owner. The images from her back garden would indicate that there are significant hoarding issues and this, coupled with the spread of infection caused by the explosion of the cat population has resulted in a number of calls from distressed neighbours.
Over 50 cats have been seized to date and by the time our inspectors reached them they were in a collapsed state and posed a risk to the healthier cats as they suffered from panleukopenia virus (a serious feline viral infection which is spread through fluids and faeces) which can endanger feral and domesticated cats. Sadly only 13 survived due to their poor physical condition.
Situations like this can place a major strain on the inspectors and can take months to resolve. This case is ongoing.
When the DSPCA receives a call our inspectors will attempt to help save and retrieve the animals and bring them to the shelter where they can be treated and re-homed. We rely on the support of the public to alert us about such cases of concern.
The artist Bowie once sung about ‘Changes’ and the plea is to neuter your cats rather than compounding this population problem. Change can help control the cat question across the capital and beyond.