At one Cork farm she visited lately, there were 53 feral cats in the colony and once they were neutered, wormed and checked for disease, they were returned to the farm.
There are plenty of other locations around Cork where Maggie traps feral cats.
“Cats are very specific – they will go where it is safe for them to sleep and find food. It could be housing estates, businesses, restaurants, hotels and hotels are happy to keep them to keep the rats down.
“We could trap anything from one to 50 odd cats,” says Maggie.
Community Cats Network works with the Riverview Veterinary Group that covers Cork.
“The vets give us a discount. So the cats come in, they’re in cages, they’re given a sedative and a full head and body check, and then either an external or internal operation for neutering. It takes about 20 minutes per cat and the vet heavily subsidises it and we pay about €45 each,” explains Maggie.
The cats are then ear tipped and returned to their original environment and the network stays in touch with whoever is feeding them. The ear tipping, which helps to identify a neutered cat, also allows farmers to register them as a working farm animal explains Maggie.
She believes that a lot more education needs to be done in the community about just how fertile cats are and how much disease feral cats can carry.
“From April until October they are in heat, until that hour changes. The majority of the time a feral female will get pregnant – and then they can get pregnant again after 21 days post partum. They can have three litters a year and from 14 weeks on, female kittens are fertile.
“With a dog people will lock them up while they’re in heat. You can’t do that with a cat,” she says.
Illness and population control are the biggest issue she sees.
“The biggest problem is that they are constantly breeding and constantly getting sick and dying, so it’s a welfare and control issue,” states Maggie.
And while she is trapping upwards of 1,000 feral cats a year in Bandon and Kinsale alone, she knows this is a “national issue”.
“In 2019, we trapped 1,136 cats and last year it was 934 but that was because of Covid and we didn’t know if we were allowed to work for a time. But this is certainly not just in Cork, this is a national issue. I know of smaller groups trapping and neutering around Ireland,” says Maggie.