SIDNEY — Stray and feral cats. They are a problem in Sidney.
Residents have been seeing more than just a stray cat here or there. Some residents don’t want to open their windows because of the smell of cat urine coming from their flowerbeds; they can’t avoid stepping in cat feces when mowing the lawn; and they can’t even enjoy watching songbirds feed without feral cats attacking and killing them.
Sidney resident Bob Baker and his wife, Louis, said there is a colony of up to 15 cats living in the sewers and roaming around their trailer park. Baker said he has contacted the animal shelter at least four times in the last five months after witnessing constant attacks on the songbirds they feed and love to watch from their bay windows.
“I saw (a bird) sitting there one day and I saw something hit one of those (bird) feeders out there, and that thing swayed back and forth. And pretty soon (a cat) had (the bird) and he ran across the road over there,” Baker said, in a frustrated manner. “When he hit (the bird feeder), he hit the doggone thing there (so hard), I thought he was gonna knock it off the wall.”
Bob, who has just turned 92 and is a World War II veteran, said the handicap ramp leading up to his front door has become a hideout spot, where feral cats wait for birds to approach the nearby bird feeders.
“(Birds) used to be out there by the dozen. Now every once in a while, you get to see two or three; the cats have chased them off,” Bob said. “We got all kinds of birds, red birds, green birds, canaries, and they come from all over and I hate to see the cats get them.”
According to iheartcats.com, feral cats are unsocialized cats that do not trust and are afraid of humans. Stray cats are cats that were once domesticated but have been abandoned or lost.
As Mayor Mike Barhorst said in his June column, “Stray cat blues,” in the Sidney Daily News, the Sidney City Council budgeted several thousand dollars in an attempt to reduce the number of feral cats roaming the city. He said the money helped fund seven trap-neuter-return (TNR) clinics since 2016 that are run by the Shelby County Animal Rescue Foundation (SCARF).
SCARF and the city have committed three years to the program to see if it makes a makes a difference, said volunteer Steve Wagner, who is also a city council representative for the organization.
In June, Barhorst’s column reported a that 82 female cats were spayed, 96 male cats were neutered and five, trapped, feral cats were euthanized because they were seriously ill.
Shelby County Sheriff’s Deputy Kelly Ward, Shelby County dog warden and adviser to SCARF, runs the TNR clinics and acknowledges, “It is an ongoing issue.”
“We know it is an issue in the city. (TNR clinics are) the best and most humane way to deal with it,” Ward said.
The Shelby County Animal Shelter has contracted with NOMAD Inc. to conduct the clinics. The NOMAD clinic is a mobile pet surgery unit that provides services for cats only.
The TNR clinics place cages with food and water in areas known to have feral cats running around. Captured cats are then taken to NOMAD’s Dr. Laura Miller, who is the mobile veterinarian. They are first given a medical examination, spayed or neutered, given a rabies vaccination and then their ears are given a small tip so they can be recognized if they are ever recaptured. Volunteers then return them to the areas where they were captured.
Barhorst agreed that TNR clinics are the “most humane way they know of” for dealing with the feral cat issue. He told the Sidney Daily News that TNR has been in place for only a year, and it will likely “take time to see the effects of the program.”
“I don’t know if we know if (TNR clinics are) enough for awhile, quite frankly, because for any project like that to get its wings, so to speak, it’s got to be given a chance to succeed,” Barhorst said, when asked if the TNR clinics are enough to battle the growing issue. “For a program like this, you’ve got to give it a chance to work.”
Barhorst said SCARF has had three sessions within the last year.
“A male and female cat, and their offspring, over a four-year period can produce a couple thousand cats. We’ve got to catch significant numbers to be able to put a dent in it,” Barhorst said.
According to Spay USA, one unspayed cat per mate and all their offspring can result in up to 11,000 cats in five years.
Barhorst reiterated the points he made in his June column, urging residents to spay or neuter their pet cats, to not feed stray cats, to encourage others not to feed the stray animals, to keep garbage containers closed and to remove or block sources of shelter. Also, he said to call the animal shelter about a problem in a neighborhood and allow animal control personnel to place traps on private property.
Wagner said, “It is (necessary for) citizen cooperation, because we cannot go on private property (to place cages) without permission. And this program could not exist without Kelli (Ward), the dog warden and the volunteers of SCARF. The volunteers are fantastic with (the cats). And (TNR) is the most humane thing that we can do, and it takes volunteers. The animal shelter actually needs volunteers. They would appreciate any contributions of kitty litter, food and or money.”
Ward also recommends calling the animal shelter to report a problem in your neighborhood. She said cages are placed on Friday nights and are retrieved as they capture cats or Sunday nights if they are empty. Since 2016, they have captured close to 200 cats.
Three additional TNR clinics are planned for 2017 on Aug. 14, Oct. 9 and Dec. 4. Trapping is done in locations based on calls received by the Shelby County Animal Shelter at 498-7201.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.