SPCA Cat Colony Care Programme Launched for 20 Years
Desexing More than 75,000 Street Cats
Reversing the Fate of Street Cats and Creating a Harmonious Community
Holding Hong Kong’s First Large-Scale Outdoor ‘Cat Festival’ to
Arouse Public Concern about Animal Welfare
(7th October 2020; Hong Kong) In Hong Kong more than 20 years ago, stray cats were a serious problem that plagued the community. Feral and unwanted cats suffered on the streets with poor health, fighting for survival and breeding uncontrollably, contributing to poor environmental hygiene, complaints on noise nuisance, and even occasional traffic accidents. The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Hong Kong) (“SPCA”; “The Society”) launched the city’s first ‘trap, neuter (vaccinate) and return’ programme calling it the ‘Cat Colony Care Programme’ (“The Programme”) in August 2000. Through the management method of ‘trap-neuter-return’, the population of stray cats is controlled in a humane way and the health of those remaining is improved in accordance with animal welfare. Since the launch of the Programme, more than 75,000 cats have been successfully desexed.
Cats can reproduce at an alarming rate. If the 75,000 cats that have been desexed under the Programme all had normal lives and reproduction cycles, there might have been many more millions of street cats born and left to suffer in Hong Kong over the past two decades. Before the launch of the Programme, Hong Kong relied on capturing and culling to try to solve the problem, but because this approach failed to tackle the issue at the root cause, the situation did not improve, and many thousands of cats suffered each year even facing an untimely end. The ‘Cat Colony Care Programme’ aims to start from the core of the problem – reducing the number of kittens from being born. According to research, if about 80% of cats in a colony have been desexed, the number of cats in this colony will have a chance to stop growing. In fact, even at much lower levels we start to see positive impacts with population stabilization and improved health and welfare.
Living in Harmony with Animals, Advocating Humane Thinking and Promoting Community Integration
The ‘Cat Colony Care Programme’ is the only government-recognized feral cat birth management programme in Hong Kong. The members of the Programme include the Society’s veterinary team, Inspectorate, animal welfare team and support staff, as well as volunteer carers and volunteer assistants composed of more than 1,350 dedicated citizens. The Programme’s volunteer carers will identify different cat colonies according to the cats’ habitats and register them with the Society. When the time is right, the cats will be ‘trapped’ using special cat traps. The cats that have been caught will be dropped off by the carers at the Society’s dedicated Cat Colony Care facility or one of its other centres, where the veterinary team will perform neutering, vaccinations, implantation of microchips and apply various anti-parasitic treatments.
During the operation, the veterinarian will cut off a small corner of the cat’s ear as a mark of sterilisation. After the operation, the cat will be placed back in its original habitat by concerned carers, and the carer will be responsible for feeding and monitoring the situation of the cats, and assisting the Society’s staff in collecting annual survey on the number of cats to measure the effectiveness of the Programme and guide future management strategy. The Society’s dedicated CCCP team along with assistance from the Inspectorate support the cats in the community by liasing with Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, management offices and different stakeholders in the community on cat related issues.
According to the Society’s records, there are currently more than 1,900 cat colonies in Hong Kong, distributed in Hong Kong island, Kowloon, the New Territories and outlying islands; some restricted areas also have cat colonies, such as the Hong Kong Jockey Club Shatin stables, Sha Tau Kok Frontier Closed Area, Tong Fuk Correctional institution, Shek Pik Prison, Siu Lam Psychiatric Centre, Lamma Power Station, Castle Peak Power Station and Hei Ling Chau Correctional Institution, etc. Among the more than 1,900 colonies, there are 1,750 ‘active’ colonies where cats still live in groups, and 160 where stray street cats are long gone.
Alice Choi, Executive Director of the SPCA said, “In the past, the Society accepted a large number of unadopted cats. At the peak, Hong Kong faced 30,000 to 40,000 abandoned and unwanted cats each year. At the time, the public’s awareness of adoption was not high. With no other choice, the Society and relevant government department could only bear the pain and humanely let the kittens who could not find homes leave this world. However, we are fully aware that culling not only fails to effectively cure the problem, but it also runs counter to the spirit of protecting animals that we advocate. More than twenty years ago, the Society decided to make a commitment and proposed to the government to set up a territory-wide ‘trap-neuter-return’ programme. As a project currently without government funding, we must deploy internal resources and obtain the enthusiastic participation of the public before we can gradually carry out this programme. With a grateful heart, I would like to thank all the volunteers for their support and all those who have assisted in the implementation of the Programme. We have probably saved many millions of street cats from being born, so that desexed cats can live healthier lives and a more harmonious atmosphere is cultivated in the community.”
Dr Fiona Woodhouse, Deputy Director (Welfare) of the SPCA said, “This Programme has achieved exciting results in the past two decades. Street cats are healthier and noticeably fewer in number. The Programme is undoubtedly linked to the dramatic decline in the number of cats that are euthanized – a decrease of 90% in the past 20 years, from about 7,000 in 2000 to about 700 in 2019-2020. However, due to legal restrictions or the need to obtain approval from property managers and owners, we have not yet been able to implement this Programme in some locations such as country parks, parks under the management of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, and some private housing estates or premises. We hope that in future the government can formally incorporate the ‘trap-neuter-return’ programme into its animal management strategy, for example allowing stray cats that have been caught and sent to the animal management centre of the AFCD to also benefit from this Programme, and consider further extending the Programme to the management of feral dogs so to help solve their related problems too, and letting Hong Kong truly move towards becoming an animal-friendly city.”
Holding Hong Kong’s first large-scale outdoor ‘Cat Festival’ to raise more public awareness
To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the ‘Cat Colony Care Programme’ and to arouse more public attention to the development of animal welfare in the community, the Society will hold Hong Kong’s first outdoor ‘Cat Festival’ on Lee Tung Street, Wan Chai, from 23rd October to 15th November. The event is also fully sponsored by the well-known Chinese medicine brand - Wai Yuen Tong’s pet series @ProVet developed by Chinese medicine veterinarians.
During the event period, the venue will feature a giant inflatable cat doll whose shape and design fully represent Hong Kong’s street cats. Adults and children will be welcome to take photos with the giant cat ambassador so to feel the huge positive energy brought on by caring for animals. In addition, the Society will also hold a ‘Street Cat Hunt’ game on Lee Tung Street, giving participants a taste of what it’s like to wander on the streets like cats, and through studying the information about the Programme that is found on nearby display boards, participants will increase their understanding of the issue related to community animal. We will also hold the ‘Cat-Themed Flea Market’ on four weekends during the event period where cat lovers will surely find fashionable products for themselves and their fur-kids love. The net proceeds and donations received from the event will be used to support the ‘Cat Colony Care Programme’.
In order to allow more cat lovers to participate in this event, the Society will broadcast short videos of cats on the spot during the event. All cat lovers are hereby invited to share cute pictures of their cats with the public. If you would like to submit interesting photos of your cat, please email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Every time an individual submits a photo to the Society, ProVet will donate HK$50 to the Society. Please support us. Details of the event will be announced on the Society’s Facebook page.