Workshops aimed at bettering the lot of Bermuda’s feral cats will start today, courtesy of an international charity dedicated to feline care. The island’s cat population outnumbers available homes, according to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

The five days of education sessions combine Vicky Halls, a bestselling author and expert on cat behaviour, with Kim Horsford, a founder of the Bermuda Feline Assistance Bureau.

Ms Horsford is working with the group ICatCare to improve cat welfare on the island.

According to Ian MacFarlaine, a Bermuda SPCA inspector, the island’s pet owners need to take better care of their cats.

He said: “When people allow pet cats to get pregnant and abandon the kitten, then we have an issue.”

Domestic cats are “very good breeders”, he said, maturing in as little as 3½ months.

Capable of breeding up to three times per year, feral cat populations can surge rapidly. Mr MacFarlaine said the SPCA, as the provider of Bermuda’s only shelter for cats, had to manage its limited capacity with care.

The free workshops, at the SPCA headquarters on Valley Road in Paget, will offer a “360 degrees look at the cat population in Bermuda”.

Mr MacFarlaine added that Ms Horsford’s experience with the BFAB made her well acquainted with the island’s felines.

As a ten-year trustee with ICatCare, Ms Horsford has developed the “cat- friendly homing” programme with Ms Halls, a veterinary nurse and registered clinical animal behaviourist, who has worked 20 years as a cat-behaviour counsellor. Mr MacFarlaine said the two brought “global expertise”.

Based in Britain, ICatCare is a 60-year-old charity dedicated to owned and unowned cats worldwide. Since 2011, ICatCare has consulted with experts on shelter medicine, management, behaviour, ethics, welfare and human behaviour change.

Organisations and individuals involved in cat care and members of the pet care industry are invited to attend the workshops.

Mr MacFarlaine said “anybody that has an interest in working with cats” was welcome.

According to the SPCA, the workshops to Friday are suited to stakeholders involved in the care of cats, while the weekend workshops are geared to the public. Topics include animal hoarding and overwhelmed caregivers, understanding cat temperament and behaviour, the importance of early socialisation, and cat-friendly interaction.

By Renae Stampp The Royal Gazette