Saugerties village takes on feral cat problem

 

A collarless village cat (photo by Will Dendis)

At its March 6 meeting, the village board voted to give Kim Kelly permission to trap, spay and release feral cats within village limits.

Kelly, a local cat advocate and head of the group Cat Coalition, said she has seen to the neutering or spaying of 21 village cats and found homes for 11 wild kittens within the past three years and is now trying to get legislation passed on a county level protecting feral cats.

A proposed law will be considered at the county legislature’s March 20 meeting. If approved, the law would require would-be cat trappers to work with a valid organization, such as the Woodstock Feral Cat Project where Kelly volunteers, notify the local government five days before trapping attempts and notify residents living within 1,000 feet of the proposed cat trapping. It would also require that cat rescuers have a valid chip reader to determine whether the cat belongs to someone. Trappers would also have to spend seven days attempting to locate the animal’s owner before releasing the neutered cat back to its original location.

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“The village and I are trying to brainstorm ways that people can get the information so that people can reach out to me,” said Kelly. “We need people to raise their hand and say ‘Listen, there are cats all over the place and my neighbor is feeding them, there are plates everywhere and it smells like urine. Can you help me?””

Each cat trapped by Kelly, she said, is given rabies, distemper and parasite treatment in addition to the neutering or spaying procedure, which costs $50 per cat; this is covered in part by donations to the Woodstock Feral Cat Project and money received via grants. Before being released, a tip of each cats’ ear is removed to signify that they have already been trapped and treated.

“It started out as a Girl Scout bronze award project for the City of Kingston,” said Kelly. “My girls were looking for an animal-related project, and I was around Dietz Stadium and Forsyth Park in Kingston one night and saw all the cats and started asking questions. Marie Post got me involved with the Animal Emergency Fund and Animal Welfare Adoption Network. They funded [trap-neuter-release of] all of the cats at Dietz Stadium — The Girl Scouts spent four months socializing the cats; Rondout Valley Kennels sponsored a room for us. We ended up finding homes for 22 of the cats out of 28.”

According to Kelly, the key to trapping cats successfully is the right equipment. She prefers gravity-rigged traps that swing closed when the cat steps on a trip plate, rather than those which snap shut with a spring mechanism that could potentially injure the animal. Also integral are the meats used to lure the cats in — the smellier, the better.

“Saugerties has been wonderful, but we would love to get more municipalities on board realizing that this is a problem. Dogs have laws to protect them — cats don’t. People leave them behind thinking they can fend for themselves and, next thing you know, you have a hot spot [of breeding cats].”

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