The Dockyard Cats

The cats who live at HMC Dockyard in Halifax, Nova Scotia, are luckier than other feral cats: they have PACS President Pierre Filiatreault as their guardian angel.

As a member of the Canadian Navy, Pierre often saw cats at the Dockyard. He was dismayed by the conditions in which they were living and knew that if something was not done, their population would increase and their situation would deteriorate. He set out to change their lives for the better.

In 2005, Pierre started a Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) program to control the population. He humanely trapped each cat, had it examined, vaccinated, spayed or neutered, and returned to its colony. One ear on each cat was “notched” (left ear for the males, right ear for the females) to show that they had already been through the TNR program, in case the cat was re-trapped. With the help of his coworkers, Pierre built insulated shelters from old boxes and scraps of wood. Any kittens captured were socialized and adopted before they were lost to the feral world. He fed the cats daily, and supplied them with fresh water and medicine.

There are two cat colonies at the Dockyard; one at the north end and one at the south end. Each colony has a heated shelter, a regular food supply with vitamin supplements, and a heated water dish for the winter. All cats are regularly de-wormed by putting medication in their food.

The cats at the north end colony live in the Saraphyna Shelter. Some of the cats in this colony are approachable; a few cats will come quite close to Pierre. One cat in this colony (Charley Brown) enjoys being petted and brushed. The cats in the south end colony are more secretive, and less often seen. Their shelter is called the Cattyshack. It is a 5-star cat shelter with toys, bunk beds and a window with a view of the harbour. The Cattyshack had an official grand opening, complete with ribbon cutting and a blessing by the padre.

There are approximately 40 cats at the Dockyard. Pierre tends them daily. He checks on them and their shelters, feeds them, gives them treats, talks to them, and plays with them. The cats often leave him special “rodent presents”; Pierre says that they are earning their keep.

The Dockyard TNR program is a testament to the effectiveness of TNR as a strategy for managing feral cats. There have been no kittens born there since 2007; the population is stable and healthy.