Cats on the prowl

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:51

    Residents seek action to stem growing feral colony Warwick - A feral cat colony is thriving in the area of the Robert Drive and Ivy Place in the Village of Warwick - with several new kittens and cats recently added. "We have a major problem with cats on Robert Drive, which is expanding to Ivy Place where I live," said Douglas Krauze. "Right now there are approximately 20 cats. They are being fed by two neighbors and the colony is multiplying rapidly, with kittens and cats seen on Ivy Place." Krauze said his main concern is the disease that feral cats may carry, including rabies. In addition, Krauze is asthmatic. With such a large cat population nearby, combined with the waste and cat spray, he said his health is a major concern. And he is not alone. Several of Krauze's neighbors have e-mailed the mayor, complaining about the cat population. Patricia and George Villarosa are Krauze's neighbors. They said the cats can be bold and startling. "At any given time of day or night when we go to our cars, they are nestled underneath in groups of two, three or four, and come as quite a surprise - especially in the dark," they wrote in an e-mail to Mayor Michael Newhard. "They also seem to think they can join our family on our deck of 12 steps." Krauze said there is a need for both short- and long-term solutions. In the short term, he suggested that the village pass an ordinance making it illegal to feed stray cats. He said there is such an ordinance in Middletown, which has helped control the growth of feral cat colonies. In the long term, Krauze suggested a TNR Program: Trap, neuter, return. Studies show that the Trap/Neuter/Release program is the single most successful method of stabilizing and maintaining healthy feral cat colonies with the least possible cost to local governments and residents, this according to the San Diego-based Feral Cat Coalition. San Diego set up a program where residents were given traps to catch the cats. Then a local veterinarian would spay or neuter the cat at no cost, and the group would release the cat back into its environment. According to Krauze, the lifespan of a feral cat is short - just two years - because of its harsh living conditions. If these cats are sterilized, the colony could be controlled and eventually die off. Krauze suggested that the village consider establishing a feral cat control program similar to this, with the village taking on the cost of sterilization and inoculation. He suggested that one person in the neighborhood be recognized as the caretaker for the colony, making sure the cats are neutered, inoculated and fed. "It is my hope that the major costs for the cages and vet would somehow be covered by the Town of Warwick," said Krauze. Newhard said there have been problems throughout the village with feral cats. "People innocently begin feeding these wild animals, the animals reproduce, and then the neighborhood becomes a hangout," he said. The village's building inspector, Dan Kelly, recommended to the village trustees that they prohibit feeding wild animals. He also suggested that the village limit the number of animals a resident may have in and around their home. "I have no problem with prohibiting feeding wild animals," said Trustee George McManus. "But I do have a problem with telling people how many domestic animals they can have." Besides Newhard and McManus, Trustee Roger Metzger was the only other board member present at this week's meeting. He agreed this could be a problem and the board decided to discuss it at the next meeting, with more members present. "The problem with this is that when someone's personal cat is caught and spayed, we'll be in big trouble," said attorney Michael Meth. But the residents got the ball rolling. Krauze and his neighbors not only reported the problem, but suggested a solution. "The hope is that the colony population would be controlled, the possibility of disease reduced and eventually the colony disappear due to no new members," he said. "I hope that Robert Drive/Ivy Place could be the trial project for TNR in Warwick."