The cats of Devil’s Hill

Brown tabby cat looks into kitchen windowI’ve written about Lachine’s unsung heroine – a woman who quietly helps lower the number of unwanted cats by finding abandoned cats and arranging to have them spayed and neutered. She’s the woman who helped when we found a young abandoned cat sleeping in the hallway inside our apartment building, just outside our apartment door. She arranged to have this cat spayed, vaccinated, and given preventive care for worms and fleas and we eventually adopted the small, grey kitten (she’s now a long and fluffy grown-up cat). In the “Devil’s Hill” section of Ville St. Pierre or St. Pierre or Quartier St. Pierre, which is part of Lachine and part of Montreal (some locals don’t appreciate any mention of Lachine/Montreal; it depends who you talk to), we have a weird problem: there are many cats that aren’t exactly abandoned because they have homes. But they’re not always fed or well cared for. So let’s say they’re semi-abandoned.

I tried to get an idea of just how many of these neighbourhood cats could be described as semi-owned yet semi-abandoned but it’s hard to tell. I regularly see 20 or 30 cats walking around Devil’s Hill. They’re hanging out in ravine-like areas behind buildings, playing in the grass, following people down the street. To be fair, some of those cats have owners who care for them, people who would put up posters and search for their beloved pets if anything happened to them. Many of these cats have collars and you see them hanging around outside houses or heading inside.

Every day at least three cats appear in my kitchen window, begging for food. As you can see in the photos I’ve posted, they’re cute. They don’t look like wild animals, just hungry kitties.

YesterCalico cat sits outside, crying in kitchen windowday a fourth cat joined other cats at my kitchen door and they were so hungry they tried to get into my apartment. Later on I saw a small kitten peering out of my neighbour’s window.

I don’t know whether I should feed them or not. A woman who runs a pet food store nearby in NDG says I’m enabling the cats since they’re outdoors a lot of the time and cats are able to hunt and catch a mouse or a bird when hungry, especially during the summer.

The cats’ semi-owner is my next-door neighbour, a young single mom on welfare who recently told people she’s giving away 11 kittens. She can’t afford to feed all these cats. So the neighbourhood takes over, acting as some sort of food security backup for famished cats.

Is this okay? I don’t know. 

We just discovered that one of the begging kitties, a young calico cat, is pregnant. 

I could grab the cats that show up in my kitchen window, find help to get them spayed and neutered and then return them. I don’t know if the cat’s “owner” would appreciate this. I could quietly disappear them to a friendly animal rescue group so that instead of climbing in and out of her kitchen window and seeking food around the neighbourhood, these cats would be with people who can afford to keep them. Before I take any action I should probably talk to my neighbour. I don’t doubt she cares for these cats on some level but there’s no question she’s neglecting them.

There are catch-and-release programs but they appear to be for animals that are feral and/or truly abandoned. It’s unclear whether Lachine has an annual licence for cats and it’s doubtful that licencing would help this situation, since my neighbour can’t afford licences and vet care. A few months ago the borough sent out information mentioning a $20 annual fee but its website does not confirm this licence applies to cats at all – the site only mentions dog licences. The borough has a limit of three cats per dwelling but no one checks. I don’t think calling the city is a solution.

How do you deal with stray or hungry cats in your neighbourhood?

Small kitten climbs out of kitchen window


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