A local animal lover has dedicated her retirement years to helping sterilise feral cats in the city.Maureen Vida, from Pelham, has become the go-to person for many local cat lovers who feed feral cats and want to sterilise them.“When I was a child my father would never kill or hurt an ant and I think that’s where my love for animals came from.” For many years, Vida worked as the public relations officer and fund-raiser at the Pietermaritzburg Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA). While working there, Vida saw the cruelty and suffering in unsterilised feral cat colonies and took it upon herself to go out, trap the cats and get them sterilised before releasing them back where she found them.“From the age of six months female cats spend most of their lives pregnant and hungry. The prognosis for kittens born into a feral cat colony is bleak as their chances of survival in a hostile environment are poor. It is virtually impossible to find homes for kittens that are not tame,” she said.Vida said because of the prolific breeding rate of cats, in spite of the high mortality rate, the colony may increase at an alarming rate during the breeding season each summer.“One unsterilised female and her unsterilised offspring can produce 67 000 cats in a seven-year period.”She encouraged cat-lovers who feed and take care of feral cats to have them sterilised them to keep a controlled colony as they can become very handy in controlling rodent problems.“A breeding pair of rats may produce 20 million offspring over a period of four years. Cats will assist with the control of rodents,” she said.Vida said sterilisation of a colony stabilises the numbers to a manageable level.“Sterilisation and control will reduce the suffering of cats, which are, after all, in this tragic situation because of humans.” Vida said trapping cats and taking them to be sterilised is a very time-consuming job but one that she loves dearly. Most of the time she does this at her own cost.When trapping cats, Vida places a cage with bait inside and attaches a long string, when the cat enters they close the cage and cover it with a dark cloth to calm the cat down. She keeps them overnight in her garage and takes them to one of the two local vets she uses, who charge her reduced fees. After the procedures have been carried out, females spayed and males neutered, she keeps them overnight again and releases them the following day.The cat’s left ear is slightly clipped as a mark to show that it has already been sterilised.“It is very important to note that people should always return the feral cats where they had taken them from as cats hate being relocated.”For more information you can visit Vida’s Facebook page: PMB Feral Cats TSR.FACTS ABOUT FERAL CATSAll feral cats originated from domestic cats abandoned by their human families.A feral cat is a domestic cat living “wild” — not a wild animal.They will usually avoid contact with humans except in their attempt to find food.They band together in groups called colonies living on the fringes of human habitations.