Letter: Cats Deserve A Chance

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I am well aware of the feral cat problem in Mineola. Drive up and down any block between First Street and Jericho Turpike and you will see two or three black and white cats who all appear to come from the same colony. On Simonson Road, the number fluctuates but there are more than two or three. This past week, I was able to catch a kitten and bring it into my family. In addition, I feed the ferals—keeping very closely in line with the Town of North Hempstead laws. It is legal to feed them, however it is not legal to put food on the ground and it becomes illegal if it attracts rodents. My feedings do not.

I have been trying to arrange to have them Trapped, Neutered and Released (TNR), but I am running against dead ends or expenses that I do not have. One shelter told me they would “rent” traps to me. Another referred me to a vet who quoted me a per cat price for neutering. Believe me, if I won the lottery, I would. But such fees become unwieldy when several cats are involved.

A few like the one I captured are young enough that with time and patience they can acclimate to being domestic indoor pets. Most, however are too old. No shelter will take them in because they are unadoptable. They are a part of a colony. The good part is that they do a good job with the local field mice. I haven’t seen one in a long time.

The people in my neighborhood want to see them gone. They do not understand how TNR works. Once vaccinated and neutered, cats are released back into the wild in the neighborhood they know. In other words, if the cats on this block are trapped and neutered, they are just going to wind up back here—only minus the ability to reproduce. It will not reduce the number of cats in the colony (I try to keep track), but it will also not increase the number.

A little internet research yields several deterrents from cats on your property. Natural repellents to sprinkle on flowerbeds or gardens include moth balls, ammonia soaked rags, ground mustard, cayenne pepper, citrus peels, coffee grounds and citrus-based sprays. There are also commercial repellents that can be sprayed on your lawn and flowerbed that will keep the cats away without harming them.

Do not attempt to scare them away or hurt them. That only makes it more difficult for the trappers. It is very hard work establishing a feeding zone and getting the cats to trust you. Also be aware that there are laws protecting animals from harm—from hitting them (I’ve witnessed a neighbor kicking one) to poisoning them. Fines and jail time can be involved. It is also illegal to release dangerous dogs to chase them or to shoot them with pellet guns. People like me can and will report if we see any such abuse. Right now, I have cameras set up on the front of my house watching to ensure that nobody hurts them.

Yes, the answer is clear that the Town of North Hempstead needs more humane trappers to handle the problem. I am told New Hyde Park also has a large colony. The Village of Mineola could hire their own trappers and cut a deal with one or more of the local vets to do the neutering and shots. Some kind of a fund could be set up to work on this problem.
Just don’t blame those of us who feed them. We are breaking no laws. I have spoken to the health department and they have come here and observed my feeding area. It is not illegal. In my experience, I find that for the most part it is only the younger ones who feed. The older ones seem to come around very seldom, which leads me to believe they are finding their own sources of food—namely the rodent population of the area.

I have been given another batch of phone numbers to call over the weekend to attempt to get these guys TNRed. But don’t think that means they are going away—because they will be right back here as soon as they have had surgery, gotten shots and had their ears clipped.

For the moment, I will be taking the responsibility for caring for the one I caught—having her spayed and getting her shots and dewormed, but she will be an indoor cat and won’t be in the local population anymore.

Perhaps there is some way to put a small tax or surcharge on something and use those funds to hire trappers. If you don’t want them to reproduce, believe it or not, everyone bears some of the responsibility for making sure that does not happen.

They are cats—not rattlesnakes or coyotes. With the exception of reproducing and defecating, they are completely harmless once they have shots and neutering.

This is a problem that the entire community has to work together to get under control. Once winter comes, it is inhumane not to provide them with some kind of shelter. They are just God’s creatures with four paws and whiskers.

I urge the mayor and board of trustees to begin a task force for the resolution of the feral cat colony in Mineola. Bring together animal lovers along with people who don’t like them and let’s work on getting it fixed.

The ones here are very gentle, polite little creatures. They are clean, they don’t fight and they are just as sweet as can be. If we can get them trapped and neutered, perhaps some cat lovers would be willing to work with some of the younger ones to domesticate them. They deserve a chance.

—Charie D. La Marr

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