Weddin Shire Council, in partnership with RSPCA, Weddin Landcare and Lachlan Valley Vets has passed a major milestone in their attempts to address the overpopulation and welfare of cats in their local council area.
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On Tuesday, October 11, the 100th local cat had been desexed as part of the RSPCA NSW's Keeping Cats Safe at Home Project - one of seven evidence-based best practice free cat desexing and microchipping programs currently run in the state.
Lachlan Valley Vets' Tess Bailey-King said the up take from the community in getting their cats de-sexed was large, and she couldn't believe they did so many in such a small space of time.
"I'm pretty proud of how we've got here."
RSPCA NSW's Dr Gemma Ma said they have seven of these de-sexing projects underway with seven councils across the state, which is funded by a grant from the NSW state government.
"It's a four year behaviour change project. We're trying to reduce wildlife impacts from domestic cats," she said.
Compared to other areas where they are trialling this project, Mrs-Bailey-King said one of the biggest reasons for their success is the efforts of Weddin Shire Council ranger Allison Knowles.
Mrs Bailey-King said Allison has been doing an incredible job in communicating how people can book in to get their cats de-sexed and even has gone to pick up some animals the night before to help pet owners utilise this free service.
"I have to take my hat off to her. She's been fantastic in communicating with clients, with us. She would be the winning goal in this project."
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Dr Ma agreed that Ms Knowles' efforts were a major reason why this program has been so successful, along with the collaboration between Council, Lachlan Valley Vets and Weddin Landcare.
Weddin Landcare's Melanie Cooper said they jumped on board to collaborate in this program to help protect and improve local biodiversity.
"Part of that is helping to reduce the predation of some of our [native animals] particularly our small woodlands birds.
"Controlling their [cats] numbers is incredibly important. They are an incredibly hard predator to control, so tackling it at the source is really important," Mrs Cooper said.
Council Ranger Allison Knowles said the 'Keeping Cats Safe At Home" Project has provided residents from the Weddin Shire the opportunity to have their cats microchipped and desexed for free.
"This program has enabled Council to reach out to a large proportion of the public to instigate education surrounding the benefits of not only microchipping and desexing their cat, but also the benefits of keeping cats safe and happy indoors," she said.
"Weddin Shire Council greatly appreciates the support and assistance that the RSPCA, Lachlan Valley Vets, and partnering financial stakeholder Weddin Landcare have provided in developing and undertaking the project.
"It is with this support that the Council has been able to reach the milestone of 100 cats being desexed and microchipped. Council is looking forward to continuing with the project in the future," Ms Knowles said.
Weddin Landcare has been working closely with the Council on the program from the beginning and have been helping to promote the program, with the response from the community has been incredible, Mrs Cooper said.
It is highly important to get your cats desexed, Ms King said, not only to help maintain their numbers, prevent them from going into the wild, or put in shelters, but also for the cat's long term health.
"Cats breed pretty quickly. As soon as they get rid of one litter, they can be pregnant again. Getting them desexed earlier is good," Mrs Bailey-King said.
"A cat will start having litters from about four months of age and they can have two litters a year. So it can quickly get out of hand," Dr Ma said.
Mrs Bailey-King said the Lachlan Valley Vets were able to block out certain days each month where they would have just a surgery day for cats as part of the project.
The RSPCA had undertaken some stakeholder consultations to find out some of the biggest issues in each region.
Dr Ma said In Weddin they identified that accessibility of desexing was an issue - including getting cats to the vet, affording the de-sexing, catching the cat and transporting it to the vet.
Moving forward, Dr Ma said they will be running the de-sexing project until the end of 2024, and they will be running information campaigns about getting your cats de-sexed and preventing your cats from roaming.
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Weddin Shire Council's 100th desexed cat was adopted by a resident who lives in Caragabal. This resident, Ray Budd, took over feeding the cat after his neighbour suddenly passed away, leaving the cat homeless.
The number of cats on the property soon increased to a small colony of 15, which now include both semi-domesticated and feral cats.
Mr Budd said de-sexing these cats is quite important because their numbers are getting out of control and this program is mind-blowing.
"It's not the sort of effect you're going to get overnight, but six months down the track you'll start to see the numbers dwindle back down."
To arrange to have your cat desexed through this program, contact Council's Ranger via sending an e-mail to email@example.com or calling 0427 246 787
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