Colonies of stray cats create an issue of coexistence in some neighbourhoods. Some well-meaning local people feed the cats scraps from their homes, while other residents complain of hygiene problems and dirt. Until recently, the only solution to the stray cat problem in the city was to round them up and euthanise them, but studies and experience have demonstrated that this only makes the situation worse. The best solution is to sterilise the cats in the colony, all of them if possible, and then maintain the limited number of animals with suitable cat food and veterinary supervision.
To this end Malaga city council's environment agency reached an agreement with the association Aman (Amigo Animal) at the end of last year. This has given the group the responsibility for training and supervising people who regularly feed stray cats and capture them to be sterilised. The association also advises the municipal animal health centre and encourages the adoption of abandoned animals, all this with a budget of around 30,000 euros. According to the council, this is the largest sum that a town council has spent on the control, sterilisation and release of stray cats.
Aman has spent the last seven years working all over Malaga province with its own funds. During this period, over 2,500 cats, both males and females, have been neutered. Until now, the funds for the operations have come from members of the organisation, and with the help of the German company KHS. In Malaga, according to the city records, there are 120 colonies with over 2,000 cats, although the president of the organisation, Marcos Canzian, thinks that there are actually far more.
Of these, 65 colonies are formally managed by volunteers and local residents. “These people are dedicated; they put money forward and care for the cats as if they were their own,” Canzian explained. The carers are given a course to teach them how to cage the cats in order to sterilise them at one of the three available clinics, and how to fill in the necessary forms.
Volunteers are also informed about nutrition. People used to feed strays leftovers, but the organisation doesn't allow this because it can be bad for their health.Canzian recommends feeding strays small quantities of dry cat food and water. This should be put in hidden places, he explains, and refilled daily. Ill cats are caught and taken to the vet if possible.
Aman's first courses for volunteer “cat-carers” will take place in Malaga this month and more than 60 people have already signed up. “People want to avoid getting fined, which can happen if it is thought that feeding the cats is creating a health hazard or a disturbance for local residents,” said Canzian. The cards given by the city hall to the authorised cat-feeders after the courses are designed to ensure that the colonies will be controlled from now on.