Feral cats: they yowl, they howl, they create problems for homeowners, they mug harmless neighborhood cats. For most residents, they’re a nuisance, and they seem to be growing more numerous. That’s why the village has launched a spay and neuter campaign which village trustees are already hailing as a success.
“The village is taking a more active role to take care of the feral cat problem,” said Trustee Patrick Landewe.
One part of the village was singled out as ground zero for the cat colony: a vacant lot off Montross Street.
“This summer we are targeting this one colony. The sense that I have is that at one time, people dumped the cats there and since it is an under-utilized property and it’s overgrown, it’s a great place to hide out,” Landewe said.
A worker at Stella’s Station on Partition Street, which is adjacent to the vacant lot, said the feral cats “are always out by the dumpster.”
But not everyone in that neighbor sees the feral cats as a problem, Landewe added, and they put out food for the animals.
The program is being administered by volunteers and village officials. It uses live-catch Havahart traps. Village officials, and volunteers (but mostly trustee Don Hackett) take the animals to the Ulster County SPCA where they’re spayed or neutered, given a rabies shot and released back into the colony, explained Marie Post, who as town of Saugerties animal control officer and the person who runs the Saugerties Animal Shelter oversees the program.
So far, according to Landewe, four out of nine adult feral adult cats living in the colony have been caught, fixed, and released back into the colony again. However, before all the adults have been caught and their ability to procreate curtailed, they had litters and there are now a number of kittens that have expanded the colony population, Landewe said.
This is not the first time the board has attempted to address the village’s feral cat problem. Two years ago, the village board introduced an animal control law that would have required cat owners to have their pets tagged with a computer chip, or made to wear a collar in order to control the number of animals roaming free, or face a fine of up to $250.
Intense opposition to the proposed law by cat owners forced the board to retreat and seek out other ways to help control the burgeoning feral cat population.
This is when Post got involved, Landewe explained. “She came to us and said that if we put up $500, she would match it from money she had in her budget to help take care of the problem.”
“For $20 an animal, the county SPCA will spay and neuter the animal and give it a rabies shot,” Post said.
A similar program was begun about five years ago in the town, Post said, and “it’s been a success.”
While some people wonder why the feral cats are not just euthanized, Post said she does not believe in it and feels it is better to release it back into the colony where it can live out its life.
And while this year the village board allocated $500 in its budget to pay for the program, there is also the Animal Emergency Fund Inc., to which donations can be made, Post said.
“It’s just a tiny outfit, and all the money goes to the village program,” she said.
To make a donation, just call the village clerk’s office at 246-2321, or Post at 679-0339 or 246-6211.
Post also lends out the Havahart traps to residents who want to catch feral cats at no cost. Just give her a call and ask her about the program.