Montreal's senior monthly since 1986

Feb '10


Where do 1.6 million stray cats go during the winter?

Catherine Mann’s outdoor cat shelters are reusable

Catherine Mann isn’t just a cat lover, but a cat

activist who’s decided to do something herself to address the never-ending population of stray cats that make Montreal home. The Concordian Online estimated in 2007 that Quebec had an

astounding 1.6 million stray cats, and there

doesn’t seem to be any decline in sight.

“When a cat shows up suddenly looking for food, I know it’s a pet that’s been abandoned,” Catherine says. “It’s not normal for an indoor house cat to be suddenly expected to hunt for food and survive outside.”

Students come and go and leave their cats behind as do neighbours who are relocating. Unlike other feral animals, cats do not make nests or search for housing in preparation for the winter months. Those that do survive reproduce at an alarming rate as females are polyestrus, meaning they can come into heat again and again throughout the year.

“It’ll take a huge combined effort to tackle the abandonment issue here in Quebec,” Catherine maintains. “Providing outdoor shelters and hooking people up to low-cost spay release programs is just one small effort in the process.”

One effort entirely her own is a simple lightweight winter shelter she has designed to be

completely waterproof. “I’ve been building them for eight or nine years,” she says. “I started out with cardboard boxes taped together and covered them with shower curtains for waterproofing.”

Her design has evolved over the years into the present model, which is reusable over multiple

winters. The styrofoam walls are an inch thick and the front panel isn’t glued, making it easy to remove for spring cleaning and refurbishing. All other walls are glued on and secured with drywall screws.

A narrow corridor leads to an interior living space filled with hay. The shelters measure either two or four feet all around, accommodating two or four cats each, although Catherine can make custom orders of any size. They only come in blue, since “pink is the only other colour the styrofoam comes in and it’s very noticeable against the white snow.” Most people prefer them to be inconspicuous, normally keeping them on or under their balconies.

She has fifteen regular customers, and last year sold a total of 50 shelters. “I have customers all over – they come from as far away as the West

Island and the South Shore. I charge people to cover the cost of material only,” she says. “The labour is free.” The small shelter sells for $25, the larger one for $40.

For more info or to place an order, contact Catherine at



At February 7, 2009 9:18 PM , Blogger harris.rose said...

I commend Catherine for helping homeless cats.

The solution to the problem is TNR: Trap the cats, spay/neuter them, and return them to their colony and care for them. Most strays are feral.
The only humane and scientifically proven method of reducing their population is TNR. Dr. Julie Levy of the University of Florida Veterinary School has done many studies proving that TNR works and feral cats have no more disease than tame cats.

The government needs to start an affordable spay/neuter program. This is much cheaper than killing the cats that are brought to the pound.

This is really as human problem & not a cat problem. So provide a program that helps people fix the cats before they breed. You'll save money and stop the killing.
Volunteer Alley Cat Allies

At December 8, 2009 4:20 PM , Blogger david said...

It's nice to see someone like her giving some thought to these poor innocent felines who at no fault of their own find themselves destitute with nothing. I too have taken the time to construct rudimentary shelters for the strays around my building in east end Montreal. I give them food and water and bought cheap large plastic storage bins for about $7.00 and lined them with 3/4 inch thick styrofoam $6.00/8ft sheet. I then sealed the lid closed with duct tape and cut a small opening (large enough for cat to squeeze through) and placed them under my stairwell but not facing the wind. The cats have made a nice shelter in it. I put some old fleece clothing into it. As long as these poor creatures can find a place out of the cold winter wind and have access to food and water they should be able to survive but nothing beats a nice warm home with a caring owner. It's sad to see these beautiful pets become victims of human society. It seems to be worst now with the recession as more are abandoning them.


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