Transcript: Cornwall's Cat Conundrum | Nov 24, 2020

Steve sits in the studio. He's slim, clean-shaven, in his fifties, with short curly brown hair. He's wearing a black suit, lilac shirt, and spotted blue tie.

A caption on screen reads "Cornwall's cat conundrum. @spaikin, @theagenda."

Steve says FOR SEVERAL YEARS NOW, THE SMALL EASTERN ONTARIO CITY OF CORNWALL HAS HAD A CAT CRISIS. AND NOT A SMALL ONE. IT'S BEEN DEALING WITH HUNDREDS OF WILD OR FERAL CATS, WREAKING HAVOC IN NEIGHBOURHOODS AND THE WIDER ECOSYSTEM. BUT, AS THE TVO ORIGINAL DOCUMENTARY "RUNNING WILD: THE CATS OF CORNWALL" EXPLORES, THIS IS NOT REALLY A CAT PROBLEM, BUT A HUMAN ONE. THE DOCUMENTARY HAS ITS WORLD PREMIERE TONIGHT, RIGHT AFTER THIS PROGRAM, AND WE'RE PLEASED IT BRINGS TO OUR VIRTUAL STUDIO SOME OF ITS KEY VOICES: FROM CORNWALL, ONTARIO: MELLISSA ALEPINS, SHE IS THE FOUNDER OF TINY BUT MIGHTY KITTEN RESCUE...

Mellissa is in her thirties, with long straight chestnut hair. She's wearing glasses and a printed shirt.

Steve continues IN GUELPH, ONTARIO: ELIZABETH GOW: ADJUNCT PROFESSOR, DEPARTMENT OF INTEGRATIVE BIOLOGY AT THE UNIVERSITY OF GUELPH...

Elizabeth is in her thirties, with straight brown hair pulled back. She's wearing a burgundy shirt.

Steve continues AND IN THE CORSA ITALIA NEIGHBOURHOOD OF THE PROVINCIAL CAPITAL, THERE'S: AARON HANCOX, HE'S THE DIRECTOR AND WRITER OF THE DOCUMENTARY "RUNNING WILD: THE CATS OF CORNWALL."

Aaron is in his thirties, with short brown hair and a full beard. He's wearing a blue sweater.

Steve continues NICE TO HAVE YOU ALL ON OUR PROGRAM TONIGHT, AND, AARON, KUDOS TO YOU. THIS IS A TERRIFIC DOCUMENTARY. YOU'VE REALLY CAPTURED THE PROBLEM IN ITS ESSENCE. I WANT TO UNDERSTAND, THOUGH, WHAT COMPELLED YOU TO MAKE THE DOCUMENTARY IN THE FIRST PLACE?

The caption changes to "Aaron Hancox. Director, 'Running wild: the cats of Cornwall.'"
Then, it changes again to "A feline fiasco."

Aaron says THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME, STEVE. OUR COMPANY MARTIN STREET FILMS HAD BEEN REALLY INTERESTED IN EXPLORING THE IDEA THAT CATS WERE AN INVASIVE SPECIES. AND IT JUST SO HAPPENED THAT THE SITUATION IN CORNWALL POPPED ON MY RADAR, AND THE STARS ALIGNED AND WE HAD A FILM.

Steve says SO YOU'RE NOT FROM CORNWALL, YOU DIDN'T GROW UP THERE, YOU DON'T HAVE THAT CONNECTION?

Aaron says MY FAMILY ALL LIVES IN THE OTTAWA AREA, WHICH IS VERY CLOSE. I THINK THEY PROBABLY SHARED WITH ME THE NEWS OF CORNWALL, SO I HAVE THEM TO THANK FOR IT.

Steve says GOTCHA. NOW, THE CATS IN QUESTION HERE, FERAL CATS, DOMESTIC CATS, ALL OF THE ABOVE?

The caption changes to "'Running wild: The cats of Cornwall.' Tonight 9 PM. Also streaming at tvo.org/documentaries."

Aaron says DOMESTIC CATS ARE REALLY THE SPECIES AND FERAL CATS ARE UNOWNED CATS THAT LIVE OUTDOORS. WE'RE DEALING WITH ANY CAT THAT LIVES OUTDOORS, WHETHER IT BE FERAL, AN OWNED CAT THAT GOES OUTSIDE, BUT FERAL CATS ARE PARTICULARLY PROBLEMATIC.

Steve says LET'S TAKE A SNIPPET OF WHAT YOU'VE BEEN ABLE TO CREATE AND WE'LL COME BACK AND CHAT SOME MORE. SHELDON, THE CLIP?

A clip plays on screen with the caption "Running wild: the cats of Cornwall. 2020."

Gentle music plays.

Three striped gray kittens sit inside a cardboard box.

A female voice says THEY WERE FOUND LOOSE.

Another female voice says OUR FORKLIFT GUY, HE THOUGHT IT WAS rats.

(MEOW)

A woman says ADORABLE, ALL RIGHT?

A young woman examines a kitten and says YEAH, YOU'VE GOT TEETH. GOOD BABY.

Another young woman says SOMEHOW THEY'RE MAKING THEIR WAY IN HERE. THEY'RE HAVING THEIR LITTERS AND THEY'RE BEING DROPPED OFF.

An older woman says WE USED TO TAKE THEM HOME, BUT YOU CAN'T TAKE THEM ALL HOME. THAT'S THE PROBLEM.

The young woman says I KNOW.

The clip ends.

Steve says MELLISSA, MAKES A STARRING APPEARANCE IN THAT CLIP THERE. WE'LL TALK TO HER MORE IN A SECOND. LET'S STILL SET THIS UP. MELLISSA, YOU'RE THE PRO IN THIS PICTURE AND I GUESS WE NEED TO UNDERSTAND, HOW DID CORNWALL GET TO BE THE FERAL CAT CAPITAL OF THE PROVINCE?

The caption changes to "Elizabeth Gow. University of Guelph."

Elizabeth says YEAH, THE SITUATION IN CORNWALL IS KIND OF AN EXTREME EXAMPLE OF WHAT CAN HAPPEN WHEN A WHOLE VARIETY OF DIFFERENT FACTORS KIND OF COME TOGETHER. SO ONE OF THE THINGS WE THINK ABOUT IS THE HUMAN ELEMENT IN ISSUES WITH CATS, AND SO CATS THAT ARE OUTSIDE, THOSE ARE CATS THAT AARON MENTIONED, PEOPLE PUT OUTSIDE, THEY'RE CATS THAT DON'T HAVE OWNERS. SO WHAT'S HAPPENING IN CORNWALL, PEOPLE PUT THEIR CATS OUTSIDE THAT AREN'T SPAYED AND NEUTERED. THERE ARE CATS THAT PEOPLE DUMP OUTSIDE WHEN THEY DON'T WANT THEM. AND THOSE CATS FREELY REPRODUCE, AND SO THEY HAVE A LOT OF BABIES. AND THOSE BABIES, THEY GET HUNDREDS AND HUNDREDS OF BABIES A YEAR FROM MULTIPLE CATS, OR ACTUALLY THOUSANDS, IN THE CASE OF CORNWALL. AND SO THE SITUATION IN CORNWALL IS... WE JUST HAVE A LOT OF CATS THAT ARE OUTSIDE AND THEY'RE CAUSING NUISANCE IN PEOPLE'S YARDS, THEY'RE HUNTING WILD ANIMALS, AND [indiscernible] WE HAVE A LOT OF SPECIES THAT DOESN'T BELONG IN AREAS THAT CREATES A LOT OF PROBLEMS.

Steve says SO THIS IS WHAT THEY MEAN IN THE DOCUMENTARY WHEN THEY SAY IT'S NOT REALLY A CAT PROBLEM, IT'S A HUMAN PROBLEM, RIGHT? PEOPLE ARE...

Elizabeth says YES.

Steve says PEOPLE ARE AT FAULT HERE?

The caption changes to "Elizabeth Gow, @gowelizabeth."

Elizabeth says YEAH. IT IS OUR FAULT. IT'S NOT THE CATS' FAULT. IT REALLY IS OUR FAULT FOR NOT TAKING RESPONSIBLE OWNERSHIP OF OUR PETS, FOR NOT... NOT REALLY TAKING THE VALUE THAT CATS NEED IN OUR SOCIETY. SO IT IS A SOCIETAL PROBLEM AND IT'S A PEOPLE PROBLEM, AND IT'S ALSO AN ECONOMIC PROBLEM. THERE ARE OTHER ASPECTS INVOLVED, SUCH AS... IT'S REALLY EXPENSIVE TO SPAY AND NEUTER YOUR CATS UNLESS IT'S SUBSIDIZED. SO A LOT OF PEOPLE CAN'T AFFORD IT. AND IF YOU'RE PUTTING YOUR CAT OUTSIDE AND IT'S NOT SPAYED OR NEUTERED, THAT DOESN'T LEAD TO THE BEST SITUATION WHERE THAT CAT CAN REPRODUCE, IT CAN COME IN CONTACT WITH OTHER CATS OR IT MAY SPREAD DISEASE... THERE'S A WIDE VARIETY OF DIFFERENT PROBLEMS THAT CAN ARISE OUT OF THIS.

Steve says ELIZABETH AND AARON, YOU'RE NOT GOING TO TAKE OFFENCE IF I SAY THIS BUT I'M SAVING THE BEST FOR LAST HERE, WHICH IS MELLISSA. MELLISSA, I'VE GOT TO SAY, YOU ARE DOING GOD'S WORK. YOU RESCUE THESE CATS, YOU LOVE THESE CATS, YOU TRY TO GET THEM PLACED IN PERMANENT HOMES. IT'S CLEAR, IT'S CLEAR YOU'RE... I MEAN, YOU ARE JUST IN LOVE WITH THESE LITTLE HELPLESS ANIMALS AND I SEE ONE OF THEM MAKING A CAMEO IN THE BACKGROUND ALREADY, WHICH IS WONDERFUL. BUT I NEED TO KNOW: WHY DO YOU DO IT?

Behind Mellissa, a cat walks around and plays.

The caption changes to "Mellissa Alepins. Tiny but mighty kitten rescue."

Mellissa says WHY DO I DO IT? I LOVE CATS. I PREVIOUSLY VOLUNTEERED AT OUR LOCAL SHELTERED AND I LEARNED THAT THEY WERE EUTHANIZING LITTLE ORPHAN KITTENS. SO I TRIED TO FIGURE OUT HOW TO LET THEM FOSTER... LIKE, I WAS WILLING TO PAY FOR IT. BUT UNFORTUNATELY THEY DENIED ME. SO I STARTED MY OWN RESCUE, AND THIS IS WHERE WE ARE.

Steve says DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA HOW MANY CATS YOU'VE RESCUED AND SEEN BACK TO HEALTH ALREADY?

Mellissa says MY NUMBERS ARE LOW BECAUSE I DON'T INTAKE A LOT OF KITTENS AT A TIME TO AVOID LIKE SUPER HIGH VET BILLS AND SPREADING DISEASE. BUT I'M PRETTY CLOSE TO 100 RIGHT NOW.

Steve says AND OVER WHAT PERIOD OF TIME WOULD THAT BE?

Mellissa says SINCE 2017.

Steve says AND HOW MANY CATS HAVE YOU GOT IN THE HOUSE RIGHT NOW?

Mellissa says THERE'S ONLY TWO RIGHT NOW WHO WERE FOUND IN A BACK YARD AND THEY'RE ORPHAN KITTENS BECAUSE THEY DON'T KNOW WHERE THE MOTHER IS.

Steve says AND IF YOU DIDN'T DO WHAT YOU DO, MELLISSA, WHAT DO YOU THINK THE IMPACT WOULD BE?

The caption changes to "Mellissa Alepins. Instagram: @tinybutmightykittenrescue."

Mellissa says WELL, MY MAIN FOCUS IS TO RESCUE THE ORPHANS IN THE TOWN AND ACTUALLY I TAKE IN KITTENS FROM AROUND THE AREA TOO, BUT THERE'S NO REALLY HELP FOR ORPHAN KITTENS. SO THAT'S WHAT I TRY TO FOCUS ON. LIKE, I GUESS THE KITTENS NEED HELP OBVIOUSLY BECAUSE THEIR MOTHERS ARE MISSING OR THEY'VE BEEN HIT BY A CAR OR SOMETHING TRAGIC LIKE THAT, SO I TAKE IN THE ORPHANS WHEN I CAN.

Steve says AND JUST TO BE CLEAR, THIS IS NOT A JOB FOR YOU. NO ONE IS PAYING YOU TO DO THIS, I PRESUME; RIGHT?

Mellissa says NO, THIS IS ALL VOLUNTEER WORK.

Steve says VOLUNTEER WORK OUT OF THE GOODNESS OF YOUR HEART.

Mellissa says YEAH.

Steve says GOOD FOR YOU. THAT'S GREAT. AARON, MAYBE YOU COULD DESCRIBE FOR US, WHAT'S BEEN THE CITY OF CORNWALL'S APPROACH TO THIS PROBLEM?

The caption changes to "Aaron Hancox, @aaronhancox."

Aaron says MY UNDERSTANDING IS THAT IN 2008, THE CITY MADE A CONCERTED EFFORT TO TRY AND FIX THE PROBLEM, PARTNERING WITH THE OSPCA, A CHARITABLE ORGANIZATION, AND THAT AT A CERTAIN POINT, THE OSPCA AND THE CITY RAN OUT OF RESOURCES AND STEAM AND SAID THIS IS REALLY BEYOND OUR CAPACITY JUST TO FIX THIS PROBLEM. AND AS DR. GOW MENTIONED, WHEN THE PROBLEM EXISTS, IT CAN SPREAD EXPONENTIALLY BECAUSE CATS BREED SO MUCH. SO IF IT'S LEFT UNCHECKED, IT JUST RUNS WILD. AND THAT'S WHAT HAPPENED, IS OVER THE PAST 10 OR 12 YEARS, THE SITUATION JUST BECAME SO BAD THAT IT REACHED A CRISIS LEVEL, IT STARTED MAKING NEWS HEADLINES, WHICH OF COURSE IS HOW I FOUND OUT ABOUT IT AND FOUND OUT ABOUT MELLISSA'S WORK.

Steve says IN WHICH CASE, ELIZABETH, WHY DON'T MORE PEOPLE PAY OR NEUTER THEIR CATS? IF THEY DID, PRESUMABLY THIS PROBLEM GOES AWAY.

The caption changes to "Watch us anytime: tvo.org, Twitter: @theagenda, Facebook Live, YouTube."

Elizabeth says YEAH. IT'S A VERY... IT'S A VERY COMPLICATED SITUATION BECAUSE IT'S EXPENSIVE TO SPAY OR NEUTER YOUR CATS. IT TAKES TIME. AND A LOT OF PEOPLE DON'T HAVE THOSE RESOURCES. SO THE PROBLEM WITH CATS IS WE OFTEN THINK OF THEM AS A BIT OF EXPENDABLE ANIMALS. WE TREAT THEM QUITE DIFFERENTLY THAN DOGS. SO PEOPLE SOMETIMES... THEY WANT A PET, THEY DON'T HAVE A LOT OF MONEY, SO THEY GET A CAT. TO SPAY OR NEUTER IS 300 dollars. THAT'S A LOT OF MONEY FOR SOME PEOPLE. SO WE REALLY NEED SUBSIDIZED SPAY AND NEUTER TO GET PEOPLE TO BE ABLE TO SPAY AND NEUTER THEIR CATS AND ALSO BRINGING THAT SPAY AND NEUTER FOR INSTANCE TO CLINICS OR A MOBILE SPAY AND NEUTER UNIT CLOSE TO WHERE PEOPLE ARE THAT REALLY NEED IT. SO IT'S QUITE COMPLICATED, BUT IT'S... YOU KNOW, WE NEED TO PROVIDE THE RESOURCES TO HELP PEOPLE GET THEIR CATS SPAYED AND NEUTERED.

Steve says IN WHICH CASE, MELLISSA, PRESUMABLY ENTREATIES HAVE BEEN MADE TO THE CITY COUNCIL IN CORNWALL TO HELP SUBSIDIZE A SPAY AND NEUTER PROGRAM. WHAT'S BEEN THE EFFECT OF THAT?

Mellissa says IT'S BEEN DIFFICULT WITH COVID. I KNOW THE SHELTER HAS BEEN CLOSED SINCE MARCH, AS FAR AS I'M AWARE, SO THEY'VE BEEN DIRECTING PEOPLE TO MY RESCUE, WHICH HAS BEEN DIFFICULT. AND I GUESS WE JUST HAVE TO CONTINUE WAITING FOR THE MOBILE CLINIC TO COME BACK, WHEN THEY CAN.

Steve says NOW, YOU LIVE IN CORNWALL, RIGHT?

Mellissa says YES.

Steve says SO YOU'RE ON THE GROUND. YOU'D BE ABLE TO BEST ANSWER THIS QUESTION. HOW DO THE PEOPLE IN CORNWALL PEOPLE ABOUT THE FACT THAT CATS ARE RUNNING ALL OVER THEIR CITY?

Mellissa says THERE ARE CERTAIN PARTS OF THE CITY WHERE IT'S PRETTY BAD. YOU HAVE TO FEED THEM AT CERTAIN PARTS OF THE DAY, BECAUSE WHEN IT'S COLD, THEY'RE HIDING, AND WHEN IT'S SUPER HOT, THEY'RE HIDING. BUT IT IS BAD. WE'RE JUST... I GUESS, WE'RE THANKFUL THAT THE CITY HAS FINALLY HELPED US AND PUT MONEY IN THE BUDGET FOR THE YEAR, BUT HOPEFULLY MOVING FORWARD, THEY'LL CONTINUE TO PUT MONEY IN EVERY YEAR FOR THE BUDGET.

Steve says ELIZABETH, I WANT TO ASK YOU ABOUT AN EXPRESSION THAT AARON USED AT THE TOP OF OUR INTERVIEW TONIGHT, AND THAT IS, HE DESCRIBED CATS IN CORNWALL AS QUOTE, UNQUOTE, AN INVASIVE SPECIES. THAT IS NOT HOW WE TEND TO THINK OF CATS. YOU KNOW, WE THINK OF INVASIVE SPECIES AS... I DON'T KNOW WHAT? BUGS INFESTED AGRICULTURE OR TREES OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT, BUT NOT CATS IN CITIES. WHY THAT EXPRESSION?

The caption changes to "An invasive species?"

Elizabeth says WELL, A LOT OF PEOPLE WE DON'T THINK OF CATS AS INVASIVE SPECIES BECAUSE THEY'RE OUR PETS, THEY'RE OUR COMPANION ANIMALS, OUR FAMILY MEMBERS. BUT WHEN CATS ARE OUTSIDE, THEY'RE VERY WILD. AND THEY'RE ACTUALLY... CATS ARE VERY RECENTLY EVOLVED FROM THEIR ANCESTORS, WHICH ARE AFRICAN WILDCATS. AFRICAN WILDCATS ARE A SMALL CAT THAT LOOK ALMOST IDENTICAL TO SOME OF THE CATS WE HAVE IN OUR HOUSES THAT ROAM THE SAHARA AND THEY ROAM AFRICA. THEY HAVE THIS WILD SIDE TO THEM. WHEN WE PUT CATS OUTSIDE, THEY'RE NOT FROM NORTH AMERICA. THEY HAVE COME OVER HERE WITH COLONIZATION IN NORTH AMERICA HUNDREDS OF YEARS AGO AND SO THEY'RE VERY SIMILAR TO A LOT OF THESE OTHER SPECIES THAT WE THINK OF AS PURPLE LOOSESTRIFE OR EMERALD ASH BORER. THEY HAVE IMPACTS. IN CANADA ALONE, CATS KILL 150 MILLION BIRDS EVERY SINGLE YEAR, WHICH IS ASTRONOMICAL. THEY SPREAD DISEASE. THEY SPREAD DISEASE TO OTHER CATS. THEY SPREAD DISEASE TO WILD ANIMALS. AND THEY CAN EVEN SPREAD IT TO HUMANS. SO THEY CAN SPREAD IT TO US, SUCH AS A PARASITE, AND THAT GETS INTO THE ENVIRONMENT AND THAT SPREADS TO US, IT SPREADS TO OTHER ANIMALS, AND THAT'S ACTUALLY FOUND ALL OVER THE WORLD, AND THAT'S FROM CATS. SO THEY'RE A HUGE PROBLEM AND WE DON'T TEND TO THINK OF THEM AS INVASIVE SPECIES BECAUSE THEY'RE OUR PETS. BUT WHEN THEY'RE OUTSIDE, THEY'RE VERY WILD AND THEY'RE LIKE A WILD PREDATOR WE'VE SUDDENLY PUT IN OUR ENVIRONMENT.

Steve says PRESUMABLY THEY'RE KILLING MICE AND RATS TOO. WE HAVE TO BE HAPPY ABOUT THAT, DON'T WE?

Elizabeth says CATS DO KILL SOME OF THESE PEST ANIMALS. BUT WHAT SCIENTISTS HAVE FOUND THEY KILL EVEN MORE NATIVE SPEAR SPECIES. IN ONTARIO THESE ARE MICE AND VOLES AND SPECIES THAT ARE HELPFUL TO OUR ENVIRONMENT AND CATS ARE CAPTURING THOSE ANIMALS AT EVEN HIGHER RATES THAN THEY ARE PEST SPECIES, SO THOSE ARE MICE AND RATS. IT'S PRETTY CONCERNING THAT CATS ARE ACTUALLY HUNTING ALL THE SPECIES WE WANT, AND THAT'S NOT A GOOD THING.

Steve says AARON, YOU'VE OBVIOUSLY CHRONICLED THE SITUATION IN CORNWALL BUT I PRESUME CORNWALL ISN'T THE ONLY PLACE IN THE PROVINCE OF ONTARIO WHERE THIS IS AN ISSUE. WHERE ELSE MIGHT IT BE A PROBLEM?

Aaron says HONESTLY, THE SITUATION IN CORNWALL IS REALLY INDICATIVE OF A SITUATION THAT'S PROBLEMATIC ALL OVER THE WORLD. WHEREVER A CITY HASN'T TAKEN REALLY DECISIVE ACTION TO SOLVE THIS PROBLEM, IT WILL BECOME AN ISSUE BECAUSE, AS ELIZABETH HAS SAID, CATS ARE NOT THOUGHT OF THE SAME WAY AS DOGS, AND PEOPLE THINK THAT CATS ARE INDEPENDENT AND THEY CAN JUST BE LEFT OUTSIDE. I KNOW THAT, FOR EXAMPLE, HAMILTON HAS A FERAL CAT PROBLEM ON THEIR HANDS AS WELL AS MANY OTHER PLACES AROUND ONTARIO, CANADA, AND THE WORLD.

Steve says WHEN YOU SAY A FERAL CAT PROBLEM, LIKE, I'M FROM HAMILTON. WHEN I GO BACK TO THE CITY, I MUST CONFESS, I DON'T SEE CATS RUNNING ALL OVER THE CITY. SO WHERE IS IT A PROBLEM?

Aaron says WELL, ACTUALLY, IN EAST END HAMILTON, I WAS ACTUALLY DOING RESEARCH AND I WENT INTO CERTAIN NEIGHBOURHOODS, THERE'S ALLEYWAYS WHERE THERE ARE DOZENS OF CATS THAT LIVE IN THE ALLEYWAYS AROUND THERE. IT'S A COLONY. AND I THINK THE IDEA WITH FERAL CATS IS, YOU WOULDN'T ACTUALLY NOTICE THEM IF YOU WERE TO WALK DOWNTOWN HAMILTON BECAUSE FERAL CATS DO THEIR VERY BEST USUALLY TO AVOID HUMAN CONTACT UNLESS THEY'RE BEING FED BY A KNOWN FEEDER TO THEM. SO IT ACTUALLY MADE IT DIFFICULT FOR US TO FILM FERAL CATS BECAUSE THEY DIDN'T TRUST US. WE HAD TO WAIT IN ALLEYWAYS AND BEHIND HOUSES AND SET UP HIDDEN CAMERAS TO GET IMAGES OF THESE CATS. AND THAT'S WHAT MAKES IT VERY TOUGH AND WHAT MAKES ELIZABETH'S WORK VERY TOUGH, IS TO GET GOOD ESTIMATES ON THE NUMBER OF CATS, BUT THEY ARE THERE, BELIEVE IT.

Steve says NO, I DO BELIEVE IT. JUST SO I'M STRAIGHT HERE, FERAL CATS, BAD. TIGER-CATS GOOD, THOUGH, RIGHT?

Aaron says TIGER-CATS GOOD, ABSOLUTELY.

Steve says FOR THE CFL FANS, I WANT TO BE CLEAR ABOUT THAT. MELLISSA, I DO WANT TO ASK YOU, YOU KNOW, AS A CAT LOVER, HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT CATS BEING DESCRIBED AS AN INVASIVE SPECIES IN YOUR CITY?

Mellissa says IT'S NOT IDEAL, I GUESS. BUT IT IS TRUE, LIKE, THERE IS TOO MANY CATS IN CORNWALL AND OTHER AREAS THAT NEED HELP SO THAT THEY DON'T REPRODUCE OUT IN THE STREET AND CAUSE TONS OF ORPHAN KITTENS WHO CAN'T GET HELP.

Steve says I SHOULD JUST CHECK BECAUSE I KEEP SEEING YOUR VERY ADORABLE CATS IN THE BROWN IN THE SHOT... BACKGROUND IN THE SHOT THERE. ARE THEY CATS THAT YOU HAVE RESCUED AND INTEND TO PLACE, OR ARE THEY YOURS?

Mellissa says THEY ARE NOT MINE. THEY ARE FOSTER KITTENS. THEY CAME FROM A HOUSE, THEY FOUND THEM RANDOMLY ALL OVER THEIR PROPERTY, TWO LITTLE KITTENS. THERE MIGHT BE MORE BUT THEY DIDN'T FIND THEM. THEY DON'T KNOW WHERE THE MOTHER IS SO I TOOK THEM IN.

Steve says WHEN YOU FOSTER THEM, HOW LONG WILL YOU KEEP THEM FOR?

Mellissa says IT DEPENDS. THERE ARE VET APPOINTMENT DELAYS. BUT USUALLY THEY LEAVE AROUND 12 WEEKS, GIVE OR TAKE, THEY LEAVE AROUND 12 WEEKS' OLD.

Steve says I NOTICED IN THE DOCUMENTARY, WHEN IT COMES TIME FOR YOU TO GIVE THE CATS UP, LIKE, YOU TAKE IT IN STRIDE. YOU'RE NOT CRYING. YOU'RE NOT MOPING ABOUT ALL OVER THIS, WHICH IS, I GUESS, A BIT OF A SURPRISE, BECAUSE I'D HAVE THOUGHT THAT YOU'D BECOME FAIRLY ATTACHED TO THEM WHEN YOU FOSTER THEM FOR THAT LENGTH OF TIME. HOW COME?

Mellissa says THERE WAS A CLIP THAT MUST NOT HAVE BEEN SHOWN WHERE I WAS CRYING. IT IS TOUGH SOMETIMES TO LET THEM GO BECAUSE I LITERALLY LOVE THEM LIKE MY OWN UNTIL THEY GO TO THEIR FAMILIES, BUT IT IS TOUGH, SO DESPITE WHAT WAS SHOWN, IT IS STILL TOUGH ON ME.

Steve says OKAY. SO YOU'RE TAKING ISSUE WITH AARON'S PORTRAYAL OF YOU RIGHT NOW, IS THAT IT?

Mellissa says I ASKED HIM NOT TO USE THE CLIP OF ME CRYING SO IT'S NOT HIS FAULT.

Steve says OKAY, OKAY. WHY DIDN'T YOU WANT THE CLIP OF YOU CRYING IN THERE?

Mellissa says IT WAS JUST ROUGH. THAT ADOPTION WAS JUST ROUGH.

Steve says I GET YOU. I GET YOU. CARTER AND OWEN, WHY THOSE NAMES?

Mellissa says I DON'T KNOW THE NAMES. THEY JUST CAME TO ME. I ALWAYS WAIT A BIT TO SEE WHAT NAMES FIT THEM AND CARTER AND OWEN WERE JUST THE ONES THAT I CHOSE FOR THEM.

Steve says OKAY. ELIZABETH, LET ME GET YOU BACK IN HERE RIGHT NOW. WHAT... WHAT IS THE PROVINCE OF ONTARIO ABLE TO DO ON THIS THAT IT HAS SO FAR NOT YET DONE?

The caption changes to "A cat's-eye-view."

Elizabeth says UNFORTUNATELY THE ISSUE OF CATS AND WHAT WE CAN DO ISN'T NECESSARILY SOMETHING THE PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENT TAKES ACTION, IT'S USUALLY DONE IN LOCAL CITIES. SO EACH MUNICIPALITY IN ONTARIO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE BY-LAWS... SORT OF ALL THE ASPECTS OF CONTROLLING HUMAN BEHAVIOUR RELATED TO CATS. BUT THERE'S A LOT THAT I THINK WE AS CAT OWNERS AND JUST THE GENERAL PUBLIC CAN DO, AND THAT IS REALLY, AGAIN, AS I'VE MENTIONED, IS THINKING ABOUT CATS A BIT DIFFERENTLY, THINKING ABOUT THEM AS OUR COMPANION ANIMALS THAT WE HAVE A RESPONSIBILITY FOR THAT WE HAVE TO... WE HAVE TO PROVIDE ENRICHMENT FOR THESE CATS. WE HAVE TO ENGAGE THEM IN OUR HOMES SO THAT THEY AREN'T BEING PUT OUTSIDE. SO IT'S NOT NECESSARILY SOMETHING THAT, SAY, OUR GOVERNMENT CAN DO, BUT IT'S SOMETHING THAT WE AS INDIVIDUALS HAVE TO TAKE A LOT OF ACTION, AND SOMETIMES THAT GETS MISCOMMUNICATED, THAT IT'S NOT... IT'S SOMETHING THAT WE AS EVERY SINGLE CITIZEN IN ONTARIO, WHETHER WE'RE A CAT OWNER OR NOT, HAS TO REALLY TAKE ACTION ON THIS ISSUE, ESPECIALLY WHEN WE DO HAVE A CAT AND ARE TRYING TO KEEP IT INDOORS.

The caption changes to "Watch us anytime: tvo.org, Twitter: @theagenda, Facebook Live, YouTube."

Steve says AARON, YOU HAVING LOOKED AT THIS ISSUE, OBVIOUSLY, AND HAVING MADE THE DOCUMENTARY, HAVE YOU COME UP WITH SOME IDEAS OF POTENTIAL SOLUTIONS FOR ALL OF THIS?

The caption changes to "Cat control."

Aaron says YES. I THINK IT'S A SITUATION WHERE A LOT OF MUNICIPALITIES DON'T WANT TO PAY TO FIX THE PROBLEM... FIX, PARDON THE PUN. BUT IT'S ONE OF THE SITUATIONS WHERE, IF YOU DON'T FIX THE PROBLEM, IT WILL ONLY GET WORSE AND ONLY GET MORE EXPENSIVE. SO I DON'T THINK IT'S A QUESTION OF, SHOULD MONEY BE ALLOCATED, IT'S A QUESTION OF HOW MUCH AND WHEN. AND EARLIER IS BETTER. IT JUST CANNOT GO UNCHECKED. IF THERE IS A SITUATION WHERE THE TAX BASE AFTER TOWN OR A MUNICIPALITY DOESN'T HAVE THE FUNDS OR IT'S AN IMPOVERISHED AREA, THEN THE CITY NEEDS TO DIG DEEP AND HELP BECAUSE THIS PROBLEM CANNOT GO UNCHECKED. THE RISKS ARE TOO GREAT.

Steve says RIGHT. YOU DO TELL A STORY IN THE DOCUMENTARY, WHICH IS REALLY DISTURBING, WHICH IS SOME FERAL CATS OUTDOORS AND SOME NEIGHBOUR DECIDES THAT THE BEST WAY TO SOLVE THIS PROBLEM IS SIMPLY TO POISON THE CATS. NOW, PRESUMABLY THAT'S ILLEGAL. BUT HOW MUCH OF THAT IS GOING ON RIGHT NOW TO THE BEST OF YOUR KNOWLEDGE?

Aaron says ANECDOTALLY, THERE'S A LOT OF THAT GOING ON ANYWHERE, CERTAINLY IN CORNWALL WE HEARD ABOUT IT. WE HEARD ABOUT POISONING, SHOOTING, AND PROBABLY MORE COMMON IS WHERE AN UNWANTED CAT IS TRAPPED AND THEN RELEASED IN THE WILD, AND THE OUTCOME FOR THAT CAT IS ARGUABLY WORSE THAN ANY OTHER OUTCOME BECAUSE THAT CAT WILL BE FORCED TO HUNT FOR ITSELF, FEND FOR ITSELF, AND MOST LIKELY BECOME VICTIM OF A COYOTE, QUITE FRANKLY. SO THERE ARE ALL KINDS OF TERRIBLE FATES THAT UNOWNED CATS CAN HAVE, WHICH IS WHY PEOPLE LIKE MELLISSA TAKE THEM IN AT A YOUNG ENOUGH AGE TO TRY TO SOCIALIZE THEM SO THEY CAN BECOME PETS RATHER THAN FERAL CATS.

The caption changes to "Stray or stay?"

Steve says IN FACT I LEARNED IN YOUR DOCUMENTARY THAT IF YOU'RE AN INSIDE CAT, SO-CALLED INSIDE CAT, YOUR LIFE SPAN IS 12 TO 18 YEARS, BUT IF YOU HAVE TO FEND FOR YOURSELF ON THE STREET, IT'S TWO TO FIVE YEARS. SO THE CAT IS GOING TO HAVE A HEALTHIER, HAPPIER, EVERYTHING, LIFE, LONGER, IF WE DO OUR PART. THAT'S ONE OF THE LESSONS HERE, ISN'T IT, AARON?

Aaron says ABSOLUTELY. MY PERSONAL OPINION IS THAT CATS SHOULD BE KEPT INDOORS. WHILE I DO FIND THAT SAD BECAUSE, AS ELIZABETH SAID, THESE ARE ESSENTIALLY WILD ANIMALS, I THINK THEY WOULD PREFER TO BE OUTSIDE, I DON'T THINK WE CAN AFFORD TO DO THAT ENVIRONMENTALLY. AND SO IT BECOMES REALLY A QUESTION OF WHAT CAN WE DO TO MAKE THIS CAT'S INDOOR LIFE AS PLEASING AS POSSIBLE, AND I THINK... IT IS WORK. A LOT OF PEOPLE THINK OWNING A CAT IS EASY. IF YOU HAVE A PURELY INDOOR CAT, IT'S A LOT OF WORK TO GIVE THAT CAT A HAPPY LIFE. YOU HAVE TO ENTERTAIN IT AND STIMULATE IT AND PLAY WITH IT FOR A LOT.

Steve says I THOUGHT CATS WERE TO BE LEFT ALONE AND DOGS WERE SUPPOSED TO BE PLAYED WITH?

Aaron says NO, NO, FAR FROM IT. I HAVE TWO RESCUE CATS OF MY OWN. THEY WERE BOTH BORN FERAL. AND IT IS WORK. I'M WORKING FROM HOME THESE DAYS BECAUSE OF COVID AND THERE'S A LOT OF MEOWING GOING ON, THERE'S A LOT OF BREAKS I HAVE TO TAKE TO ENTERTAIN THEM. IF I DIDN'T, THEY WOULDN'T LEAVE ME ALONE. THEY'RE LIKE HUMANS IN THE SENSE THAT HUMANS NEED ACTIVITY. WHAT IF YOU TOOK A HUMAN AND SAID YOU CAN NEVER LEAVE THE HOUSE? WELL, I GUESS WE'RE IN THAT SITUATION NOW WITH COVID. YOU HAVE TO STAY AT HOME AND YOU CAN'T GET ANY EXERCISE. CATS ARE WILD ANIMALS, REALLY, OR HALF WILD ANIMALS. THEY NEED THAT STIMULATION. AND SO, YEAH, WE REALLY OWE IT TO THEM. YOU KNOW, THERE ARE OTHER INDICATIONS. IF A CAT DOESN'T WANT TO PLAY, IT DOESN'T NECESSARILY MEAN IT DOESN'T WANT TO PLAY. IT JUST MAY MEAN IT'S GIVEN UP AND IS DEPRESSED AND IS UNDERSTIMULATED.

Steve says WE'VE MET CARTER AND OWEN. WHAT ARE YOUR CATS' NAMES?

Aaron says I THINK YOU MAY HAVE SEEN A TAIL CAMEO AT ONE POINT. MY CATS' NAMES ARE BEAU AND FIG.

Steve says AND NAMED AFTER WHOM?

Aaron says BEAU WAS ACTUALLY AN ABBREVIATION OF HIS FOSTER NAME, SO I CAN'T REALLY TAKE FULL CREDIT, BUT IT'S B-E-A-U. HE'S A VERY HANDSOME CAT, FLUFFY AND BLACK AND MAJESTIC, AND HE'S FRENCH. AND FIG IS BECAUSE MY WIFE IS ITALIAN AND SHE LOVES MEDITERRANEAN FRUITS, I GUESS.

[LAUGHTER]

Steve says OKAY. WHAT DO YOU MEAN BEAU IS FRENCH?

Aaron says I'M JUST JOKING. HE HAS A FRENCH NAME, IT KIND OF SUITS HIM. HE'S, YOU KNOW...

Steve says HE HAS A JOIE DE VIVRE. I GOTCHA.

Aaron says ABSOLUTELY.

Steve says ELIZABETH, I SHOULD GET YOU TO WEIGH IN ON THIS DEBATE TO THE EXTENT THERE IS A DEBATE, HOME CATS 12 TO 18 YEARS, FERAL CATS TWO TO FIVE YEARS. DOES SCIENCE PREFER ONE OVER THE OTHER?

Elizabeth says AS AARON BROUGHT UP, IT'S A TRICKY THING. CATS HAVE THIS WILD SIDE. SOME PEOPLE ACTUALLY CALL CATS WILD COMPANIONS BECAUSE THEY HAVE THIS WILD SIDE, THEY HAVE THIS COMPANION SIDE. SO IT'S... IT'S REALLY HARD FOR CAT OWNERS. WHEN I STARTED WORKING WITH CATS, I THOUGHT, OKAY, ALL CATS SHOULD BE INSIDE. THERE'S NO KIND OF OTHER OPTION. BUT WHEN I'VE WORKED WITH CAT OWNERS, THEY'RE OFTEN VERY CONFLICTED BECAUSE THEY KNOW HOW MUCH THEIR CAT LOVES GOING OUTSIDE, AND I CAN REALLY FEEL WHAT THEY'RE GOING THROUGH. AT 2:00 IN THE MORNING, THEIR CAT'S MEOWING TO GO OUTSIDE AND ALL YOU WANT TO DO IS PUT YOUR CAT OUTSIDE. SO IT'S REALLY HARD TO CHANGE THAT BEHAVIOUR OF YOUR CAT WHEN YOU HAVE A CAT THAT IS AN OUTDOOR CAT AND GET IT TO BE INDOORS. SO THAT'S REALLY HARD. SO WHAT A LOT OF PEOPLE DO IS THEY GET THEIR NEXT CAT, THAT'S GOING TO BE THEIR INDOOR CAT. THAT'S WHAT WE'RE TRYING TO ENCOURAGE PEOPLE TO DO. MAYBE YOU CAN'T GET YOUR CURRENT CAT TO BE INDOORS. BUT IF YOU CAN GET YOUR NEXT CAT TO BE INDOORS AND PROVIDE IT WITH STIMULATION, AS AARON WAS MENTIONED, THINGS THAT STIMULATE OR SIMULATE THE BEHAVIOUR CATS HAVE OUTDOORS, SO THAT'S CLIMBING, THAT'S HUNTING BEHAVIOUR, SO IT'S PLAYING WITH THE CAT. AND ANOTHER THING THAT CAT OWNERS CAN DO IS THEY CAN CREATE CATIOS, THESE ARE A LOW FENCE ENCLOSURE YOU CAN HAVE OUTSIDE. EVEN IF YOU LIVE IN AN APARTMENT, PEOPLE WILL MAKE THESE ENCLOSURES ON THEIR WINDOWS OR DECKS FOR THEIR CATS TO GO IN. THEY'RE GETTING EXPOSURE TO THE OUTDOORS, THEY'RE SEEING THINGS GOING BY, THEY'RE GETTING FRESH AIR. IT'S LIKE A CAGE OUTSIDE. THESE ARE THINGS CAT OWNERS CAN DO. I THINK IT'S REALLY IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER, IF YOU DO HAVE A CAT, TO THINK ABOUT SORT OF THE COSTS AND BENEFITS OF PUTTING YOUR CAT OUTSIDE. SO THERE ARE BENEFITS AND PEOPLE PUT THEIR CATS OUTSIDE BECAUSE THEY GET MORE EXERCISE, IT'S PART OF... THEY LIKE TO BE OUTDOORS, THEY DON'T LIKE BEING CONTAINED. THE DOWNFALL OF BEING OUTSIDE IS CATS... THEY CAPTURE WILD ANIMALS, WHICH ARE NOT GOOD FOR THE HEALTH OF OUR ENVIRONMENT, AND THEY ALSO CAN BE HIT BY CARS, THEY CAN BE EATEN BY COYOTES, THEY SPREAD DISEASE THEMSELVES, TO OTHER WILD ANIMALS, TO HUMANS, AND THEY CAN GET IN FIGHTS. SO THEIR LIVES OUTSIDE ARE ACTUALLY NOT THAT GOOD, PARTICULARLY WHEN WE'RE TALKING ABOUT FERAL CATS THAT SPEND THEIR ENTIRE LIVES OUTSIDE. IT'S NOT REALLY THAT GOOD FOR THEM. THEY'RE NOT MEANT TO BE IN THIS ENVIRONMENT IN THE WINTER, WHICH WE'RE GOING INTO NOW. CATS DON'T HAVE A GOOD COAT OF FUR TO ACTUALLY SURVIVE OUR WINTERS VERY WELL. AND SO IN ONTARIO, WE DON'T GET SUPER EXTREME WINTERS, ALTHOUGH SOME PEOPLE MAY SAY WE HAVE. IF YOU GO TO OTHER PARTS OF CANADA, LIKE THE PRAIRIE PROVINCES WHERE IT GETS REALLY COLD, -30, SOME OF THOSE CATS LITERALLY FREEZE TO DEATH BECAUSE THEY'RE NOT ADAPTED TO BEING OUTSIDE. IF YOU SEE CATS THAT HAVE EARS FROZEN OFF OR HAVE FROSTBITE ON THEIR PAWS WHICH IS CONCERNING FROM A WELFARE SIDE SEEING THESE CATS OUTSIDE AND THEY'RE ACTUALLY VERY UNWELL.

The caption changes to "Producer: Colin Ellis, @ColinEllis81."

Steve says I WANT TO THANK THE THREE OF YOU FOR COMING ONTO TVO TONIGHT AND FOR PARTICIPATING IN THE MAKING OF THE DOCUMENTARY, IT'S JUST EXCELLENT AND PEOPLE ARE NOT ONLY GOING TO LEARN A LOT BUT THEY'RE GOING TO FALL IN LOVE WITH SOME OF THE PEOPLE AND ANIMALS IN THIS DOCUMENTARY. "RUNNING WILD: THE CATS OF CORNWALL" ON RIGHT AFTER THIS PROGRAM TONIGHT. AARON, MELLISSA, ELIZABETH, GREAT OF YOU TO JOIN US ON TVO. THANK YOU SO MUCH.

Watch: Cornwall's Cat Conundrum