Friday, January 11, 2013

Farewell, Cats of Parliament Hill

This was a very sad day for Pipkin, because he came to Parliament Hill to say goodbye to its famous Cat Sanctuary, home to many stray cats since the 1970s. When he visited the Cat Sanctuary on Sunday, January 6th, he arrived just hours after Bugsy, the last of the final four strays, was caught and adopted by Brian Caines, one of the Sanctuary's dedicated volunteers.

Since the 1800s, cats had been employed by the Canadian government to control the rodent population in the Parliament buildings, but in 1955, the use of chemicals forced the cats onto the street and into unemployment. Groundskeepers fed the cats until the late 1970s, when Irène Desormeaux began to feed them regularly in one particular location. That location would become the Cat Sanctuary you see in these photographs, between the Centre and West Block Parliament buildings. In the 1980s Desormeaux was joined by Réne Chartrand, the beloved "Catman of the Hill", who then took over when Desormeaux passed away. The wonderful green roofed wooden cat houses were built by Chartrand and his friend, mimicking the copper roofs of the surrounding Parliament buildings. Chartrand retired as a volunteer in 2009, and Brian Caines, a volunteer of several years, took over heading the volunteers.

Click the picture to read enlarged text.
Donations from visitors helped feed the friendly stray cats, and vaccinations were provided by a local animal hospital. The local animal hospital also provided a capture and release spay and neuter program which prevented more kittens from being born. By 2012, the stray population dwindled down to just four elderly cats.

Caines and the volunteers made the tough decision to close the Cat Sanctuary. The elderly cats would have a rough time making it through another harsh Canadian winter, and all have found permanent, loving homes with the volunteers.

Pipkin got to see these little cat houses one last time before they would be dismantled, but he's incredibly sad to have missed saying goodbye to Bugsy. The only critters he could visit were the black and grey squirrels, who no doubt are enjoying this last free meal. It's sad saying goodbye to the Sanctuary, but Pipkin feels the volunteers made a wise decision in giving the cats warm homes for the future. The volunteers have done a wonderful job taking care of the stray cats on Parliament Hill. They had millions of visitors through the years, and in the hearts and minds of those who have visited, the cats and the kind volunteers are not forgotten.

1 comment:

  1. Let's make the Parliament Buildings grounds have signs posted on the website and fences around the property that say, "Pets Are Welcome Here" so the locals and tourists can come to the grounds year round - even during the week long Canada Day celebrations with their pets.