THE NUMBERS GAME: A maritimes charity curbs the population and improves the health of feral and free-roaming cat colonies

Meet Cat Rescue Maritimes (CARMA). The registered charity operates a trap-neuter-return (TNR) program for feral and other homeless, free-roaming cats living in colonies in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. CARMA’s primary mission is to prevent new litters on feral sites by spaying or neutering all the cats living there. CARMA also works to improve the quality of life for these animals by ensuring they have adequate food, water and shelter, as well as essential medical care under the supervision of a colony caregiver.

Abandoned  pets, friendly cats and vulnerable kittens unlikely to survive colony conditions are removed to foster care until permanent homes can be found. The CARMA foster/adoption program operates out of private homes, as the organization does not maintain a shelter facility or offices.

The program is run entirely by volunteers through community-based chapters. Over the past decade, CARMA has emerged as a major humane presence in Maritime communities, and now consists of 13 active chapters. Collectively, CARMA chapters have spayed/neutered more than 20,000 cats. Where the program is well established, large feral colonies have disappeared as new litters are prevented.

The parent organization, CARMA.ORG, sets rules of operation and admits new community chapters that meet requirements. New chapters receive some basic TNR equipment, training and a small grant for initial veterinary expenses, paid directly to the supporting veterinary clinic. For admission, new chapters must secure the support of at least one local veterinary hospital and must demonstrate committed and responsible local leadership as well as the ability to raise the necessary operating funds.

Fundraising is an essential activity for every chapter. CARMA.ORG initiates bulkpurchase arrangements and applies for equipment and operating grants, but each chapter is responsible for financing its local program. All money raised by a CARMA chapter stays in that community to benefit homeless cats there.

CARMA activity in the community raises local awareness of the humane and social issues homeless cats represent — an exploding population, visibly suffering animals and environmental and health concerns. These issues affect quality of life for people as well as cats. They also expose social and economic factors that contribute to a growing homeless cat population — lack of education, unemployment, poverty, homelessness, family violence, divorce and  mental illness. All are root causes of widespread cat abandonment and failure to spay/neuter pet cats.

Recognizing the need for a more proactive approach and following the lead of the Nova Scotia SPCA, CARMA recently launched an online survey to determine homeless cat numbers and colony locations in New Brunswick. For more information about the survey and the CARMA program, visit Cat Rescue Maritimes at PHOTOS COURTESY OF CARMA PROGRAM


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