A helping paw for pet owners

MEET THE TEAM: Nicole Connor and Narelle Radford-White have started up Pet Management Limestone Coast. Picture: SUPPLIED

Melanie Riley

PET Management Limestone Coast is taking a different approach to address the rising cat population, tackling the issue by educating and empowering cat owners, without taking their responsibility away.

After public consultation via social media, Ms Radford-White sought out to make a difference and in collaboration with Nicole Connor, the pair founded Pet Management Limestone Coast.

“I really wanted to do something community-minded and I used to run a dog rescue 10 years ago, so I have an interest in rescue,” she said.

“I started asking questions on Mount Gambier chat group about what was happening in the area, and what people saw as problems, and what people saw as solutions.”

From her research, she saw that cat management was a prevalent issue within the community, but wanted to tackle the issue in a different way.

“We’re focusing on how to support people in the community to manage their own problems,” she said.

“It’s the community that created the problem, and we want to work with the community to solve the problem.”

Ms Connor was passionate about reducing cat numbers and overbreeding and was working with a colony in Millicent, and reached out to Ms Radford-White for a collaboration.

Ms Radford-White said the group’s main objectives are pet containment, including dogs, managing colony population and their Last Litter project.

“We have taken my Last Litter project idea and my catio project idea and put that together with her controlling population,” Ms Radford-White said.

She wanted to assist people with dogs that were struggling to keep their dogs contained on their property and with new Dogs and Cats Online (DACO) laws projected to include cat containment in the near future, Ms Radford-White said this was important as a focus for early intervention.

Ms Radford-White said the two main people that have reached out for support are those with semi-owned cats with unplanned litters or are pregnant and weren’t in the financial position to desex them.

“An owned cat is normally not what we’re seeing,” she said.

“And what we’re seeing is, the earlier the litter is found and interacted with, the more domesticated we’re able to get the kittens, and that is our priority.

“Most of the people that we’re seeing actually want to keep the cat that they’ve found or semi-own, so one of our requirements of us being involved is that all mother cats must be desexed.”

While the main focus is cat population, support for dogs was also offered by the group.

Ms Radford-White said building and selling catios to help keep cats contained was a huge focus for her when starting up Pet Management Limestone Coast, and planned to invest the profits into the Last Litter project.

She planned to build and sell catios by panel for easy customising to the home in terms of sizing and accessibility, including options of window boxes and having them unbolted for rental properties.

“Excluding our window boxes, all of our catios are walk-in and the reason for that is because we want people to spend time with their cats in the outdoor environment,” Ms Radford-White said.

“So to make them as accessible as possible, they are all 1.8 metres high.”

As part of their Last Litter project, Ms Radford-White said the focus was on supporting the community to reduce large overpopulation of cats.

“We don’t want to take the responsibility away from the community and rescues are exhausted, and they are at capacity and completely overflowing,” she said.

The group is offering a ‘foster-in-place’ agreement, which aimed to assist the owner support the mother cat and the litter.

To be part of the foster-in-place program, the person must have a paid membership.

“You will come to us with your mama cat and your litter, and you will sign your litter over to us for support, and they will be adopted out through us,” Ms Radford-White said.

“As a part of that agreement, you agree that mama cat will be desexed.

“They stay in your home, you foster them, you continue to pay for their food and litter.

“We, as an organisation, support you as much as possible with that.”

The support from the group is carried out throughout the process, including veterinary work and the advertising and the rehoming of the litter.

“Making sure that mum is desexed, so there’s no more litter in that household is the core of what we’re focusing on at the moment,” Ms Radford-White said.

“That’s our point of difference, because not only are we looking after the kittens, we are ending the cycle by desexing mum.

“We are taking the foster-in-place approach to take some of the pressure off, and to keep the responsibility in the community and out of rescue groups. That is the whole point.”

Ms Radford-White hoped the initiatives they had introduced would help support the community in a kind and effective way, and that it needed to be a collaborative effort.

“We are prepared to work with whoever wants to work with us. We believe that every organisation has their place, every organisation has a strategy,” she said.

“We really wanted to form a very healthy, supportive community approach to pet management in the region.”

The group are currently seeking more volunteers – to help build catios, for kitten and puppy socialisation, dog walkers and administrative tasks.

The group are also looking for donations of discount materials for catio and donations of kitten and puppy food, toys and paper kitty litter.

For anybody interested in volunteering or donating, please contact the Pet Management Limestone Coast on Facebook.