The feuding, feral cats of HMC Dockyard — and the ex-sailor who nurtures them – Nova Scotia

Pierre Filiatreault looked out his office window at Halifax’s naval base 12 years ago and saw two tiny kittens playing together in a narrow alleyway.

The kittens — one with fluffy orange and white fur and one all black — appeared malnourished and without a mother, so Filiatreault began feeding them.

He fashioned a small makeshift shelter out of Plexiglas and other scrap materials. The pair could often be seen cuddled together inside the enclosure, resting their heads on each other’s back paws, their bellies touching.

Eventually the naval officer took them to the SPCA, where they were adopted. But the two kittens were not the only felines roaming the base in search of food and shelter.

Feral cats are a common sight at HMC Dockyard — home to Canada’s East Coast navy, including frigates and the submarine HMCS Windsor.

Pierre Filiatreault of Pierre’s Alley Cats Society at the Halifax Dockyard is seen in one of the cat shelters. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

‘They’re part of the family’

Filiatreault retired in 2009 as a petty officer first class after serving 31 years in the navy, but he still visits the base near downtown Halifax every day to feed the roughly 20 stray cats that call it home.

“The cats are part of my life now. As you feed animals, you get attached to them,” said Filiatreault in front of a cat shelter dubbed “Saraphyna” that’s nestled into a ledge that overlooks the Halifax harbour.

“It’s not work anymore. They’re part of the family.”

Binoo, one of the cats under the care of Pierre’s Alley Cats Society, heads to a plate of food at the Halifax Dockyard. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

Filiatreault, also known as the Catman, has special permission from the Defence Department to maintain several cat shelters at the yard and enter the base each day to feed what have become known locally as the “dockyard cats.”

In 2005 he started to trap, neuter and return the cats to help control the population. Kittens have not…

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