If you drive North of downtown Peterborough, after about a half hour you will pass through the village of Burleigh Falls. There’s a roadside inn, a gas station, a restaurant, a boat launch — and if you stop at this little pit stop and keep a sharp eye you might spot the darting tails of dozens of feral cats. Creeping around the decks of cottages and by the foundation of the inn there is feral cat colony.
These cats were born last fall and they made it through the winter with the help of a small group of colony caregivers: including residents of Burleigh Falls and an engaged couple named Brienne Taylor and Adam Rowland.
Adam said, “When we first came up we would just feed the cats, but at one point we noticed last September there were a bunch of kittens that had been born, but unfortunately we learned after a particularly cold night that all those kittens had died. For us that was the point that we decided we had to do something to prevent more kittens from being born.”
These caregivers fed the cats, built them a cat-sized apartment complex, and all the while, tried to trap and neuter each of the cats. As of this September 2018, the couple announced that they had officially trapped and neutered every one of the nearly fifty feral cats in the colony.
“I had heard of an organization called Operation Catnip and I knew right away that they would be my first call,” said Brienne. “They have taught us everything we needed to know to take on this project. They are a very hard working group of women, and there’s no way I could have done any of this without them.”
The Peterborough Humane Society does not accept feral cats and for those with a soft spot in their heart, it’s up to volunteers who want to care for these cats. Back in 2013, a volunteer group came together called Operation Catnip for just that reason. They help colony caregivers and use a method called Trap, Neuter and Release.
“We trap cats who don’t have any owners, take them to vets, have them spayed and neutered, and return them to where we found them,” said Monique Beneteau, a volunteer for Operation Catnip.
At it’s core this method is about population control and preventing any more feral cats from being born.
Since they were founded, the volunteer group has helped trap and neuter over 800 cats.
And many of those cats wind up being adopted. A lot of the cats from Burleigh Falls have been adopted out – although they are still looking for a few adopters looking for a barn cat or an outdoor cat. The longer feral cats are left to live outdoors, the less likely it is that they’ll ever make good pets. Formerly feral cats will always have personality quirks – and for many it’s a long process to build trust. The remaining cats at Burleigh Falls will probably be self-sufficient outdoor cats forever, but if you have warm barn or home you could offer an outdoor cat, get in touch with Brienne and Adam through Facebook.
And if you spot a feral, abandonned or stray cat in your area, consider what you can do to help. You can start out by building an outdoor cat shelter or feeding the cat – and if you want to take the next step, get in touch with Operation Catnip to learn how you can trap, neuter, and release (or adopt!) an outdoor cat.