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More than 200 cats taken into care from Houston, B.C., property

Several cats pictured at a home in Houston, B.C. More than 200 cats and kittens will be taken in by the B.C. SPCA in one of the largest animal intakes since the 1990s, senior officer Eileen Drever says.  (Submitted by BC SPCA - image credit)
Several cats pictured at a home in Houston, B.C. More than 200 cats and kittens will be taken in by the B.C. SPCA in one of the largest animal intakes since the 1990s, senior officer Eileen Drever says. (Submitted by BC SPCA - image credit)

More than 200 cats and kittens will be moved from a single property in northern British Columbia to the care of the B.C. Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in one of the society's largest intakes of rescued animals in recent years, it says.

Eileen Drever, senior officer with the society, says the B.C. SPCA became involved after a request for assistance from the animals' guardian, who said he was feeling overwhelmed with his situation.

"We sent staff out to his property. And when asked how many cats he had, I think he said it was like counting bubbles in boiling water," Drever said.

The cats' guardian, Bruce Robinson, told CBC News he has about 298 cats, 15 of which are expected to have kittens in the coming days.

"I ended up in a crazy situation," he said.

He said people in the community starting dropping cats off on his property during the COVID-19 pandemic, and his pet cats ended up pregnant. He didn't have the money to get them spayed and neutered, and couldn't get outside support to do so.

"I made a bad decision," he said. "I thought I could handle the cats."

Drever said one cat can have three litters a year.

"So, in a seven-year timeframe, you're looking [at] up to 5,000 cats. So we're looking on the bright side — 280 isn't as bad as 5,000," she added.

Robinson said he wanted to give cats away, but said no one in the area wanted them.

"No one likes cats up here."

A cat located at a property in Houston, B.C.
A cat located at a property in Houston, B.C.

One of the cats living at the property in Houston, B.C. The owner reported feeling overwhelmed by the number of cats in his care, which he numbered at approximately 280, the B.C. SPCA said. (Submitted by BC SPCA)

Robinson said the cats all have names.

"I love every one of them," he said. "I wanted to give them a safe home."

Robinson says he isn't working at the moment and can no longer afford to care for the cats. The animals go through 28 kilograms of cat food a day, as well as cat litter for his 10 litter boxes, he said, costing him upwards of $3,000 a month. He says he has gone without food himself in order to pay for cat food and litter.

Drever said charges are not being considered against Robinson as he was providing for the cats and on initial assessment they appear to be healthy, and he was the one who reached out to the SPCA for help.

"Kudos to him for recognizing he was overwhelmed," she said, adding she was amazed at how healthy and friendly the cats seem to be.

'Huge undertaking'

As of Friday afternoon, Robinson said the SPCA has taken eight or nine pregnant mothers and six kittens.

Drever says the society hasn't had an intake this large since the 1990s, and the required care for the animals will be a major drain on resources.

"This is a huge undertaking, and it's going to take resources from around the province to bring these animals in," she said.

"One cat in our care can costs the organization anywhere between $450 to $700. They need the care and we need to care for them."

A major hurdle will be locating an indoor space where the cats can be temporarily housed, examined and treated until they can be sent to various shelters in the region, Drever said.

She has put the call out for a warehouse or other space in the region to be donated for several weeks so the cats can be cared for and assessed.

In the meantime, staff have gone to the Houston property to provide food, supplies and litter and to help co-ordinate the intake.

After they're treated and transported to shelters, they will eventually be made available for adoption.