Thousands of stray cats strutting in Oceanside

Spay and neuter programs stretched to the limit by population boom

Barb Ashmead always knew there was a problem with uncontrolled breeding by cats in Oceanside, but it wasn’t until she put the numbers together recently that she realized just how serious the problem really is.

Ashmead, who runs Qualicum Cat Rescue in Qualicum Beach, said her calculations show there are as many as 2,000 unspayed and un-neutered cats in the Oceanside area — and even that figure could be low.

“We under-estimated it,” she said. “It has crept up exponentially.”

That’s not too surprising, considering the fact that every unfixed feline can have two to three litters a year — and they are ready to breed at just six months of age.

With animals breeding at that rate, the results can be dramatic.

“We usually get between 120 and 130 kittens a year and this year we’re up to 250,” Ashmead said.

That increase, she added, also means a big increase in the amount Qualicum Cat Rescue needs to raise to deal with it. Fortunately, they’re getting some help.

Thanks to a $15,000 grant from Petsmart Charities, the group will be able to fix 150 cats at a much reduced cost. The new money also comes with a new tactic that Ashmead and her team believe will prove effective in the long run.

“The idea is to concentrate on one area, in this case Coombs, and once we get 50 to 60 per cent of the cats, we then go on to other areas, like Errington and Whiskey Creek,” Ashmead said.

“If you try to target the whole area with only enough money to do 150 or so, that means we would only do 10 cats from each area, and that’s not going to solve the problem.”

The new protocol, she said, should work far better than what they’ve done before, but only if they secure additional funding to do it.

And that, she said, is going to be a challenge.

“Petsmart Charities pays for most of the spaying and neutering and we pay for the feline leukemia test and we deflea and deworm them,” Ashmead said.

“It’s still costing us $60 to $80 per cat, so we are running into a financial crisis. We didn’t see this coming.”

Anyone who would like to donate to Qualicum Cat Rescue can do so online at




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