Photo by flickr user Susanne Nilsson under Creative Commons Licensing
Councilor Becky Kasper (Ward 5) and Denise Nephew of ARWS scoured the city last week in an attempt to map cat colonies in the area. The city will contribute $1,500 to ARWS to help combat the feral cat issue.
PLATTSBURGH — In a quiet residential area just a few blocks from City Hall, Councilor Becky Kasper (Ward 5) and Denise Nephew, a volunteer for Animal Rescue and Welfare Services (ARWS), stepped out of their vehicle to find a small greyish cat peeking out from beneath a resident’s half-closed garage door.
The city recently approved a new contract with ARWS, a local volunteer group that was subcontracted last year to provide catch and release services to control the feral cat population.
The group will now receive $1,500 from the city to help pay for supplies and spay/neuter services.
Kasper, a bag of cat treats on her hip, called out to the weary cat.
“Here, kitty,” she said, looking behind the garage for signs of more abandoned felines.
As feral cat colonies continue to bedevil the city, Kasper is working closely with ARWS to map the colonies, spearheading an effort to contain the issue.
In hopes that community input may result in a solution to the problem, Kasper has proposed that the city insert flyers into residents’ electric bills to help raise awareness.
“People who live near cat colonies know where the cat colonies are,” said Kasper, in a public meeting last week. “If that would be agreeable, we could ask if they would like to volunteer to help with the situation.”
ON THE PROWL
Nephew, who had ducked behind the crumbling garage to continue their search, called out when she spotted several more ferals.
This colony, housed in a seemingly innocuous location in downtown Plattsburgh, is one of several known cat colonies around the city. The spot was reported to Kasper and ARWS by a city resident, as are most of these hidden locations, according to Nephew.
“Cat colonies are an issue in that they can be a nuisance to neighborhoods and potentially carry diseases that humans and other animals are susceptible to,” said Kasper. “It is also an issue for many people to witness the plight of animals who have been abandoned and suffer through harsh weather and other conditions.”
Nestled next to the garage was a cluster of makeshift cat houses, some converted from old dog igloos, others simply made from large plastic storage bins.
“Many people step up to buy food for them and construct shelters where they can find safety,” said Kasper.
The person who created the abandoned cat haven did not come to the door to speak with Kasper and Nephew.
When asked if residents housing these colonies were generally cooperative, Kasper said:
“All the residents caring for the colonies we have spoken to have been grateful for our offers of assistance as they cannot shoulder the financial burden alone.”
Kasper and Nephew scoped out a number of locations that were reported by constituents before stumbling upon a residence near the SUNY Plattsburgh campus.
From the sidewalk a reporter spotted a pristine white cat licking its paws in the shade of a large bush.
After further investigation, it was discovered that the house was home to about a dozen felines — though the exact number was unknown, even by the property owner.
The homeowner, who asked to remain anonymous due to privacy concerns, said that the cats on her property are leftovers from college students — some of whom abandon their pets after each semester is over.
“I can hardly afford to feed them,” the homeowner said. “I spent $500 last month, just to buy food for them all.”
Nearby, an energetic black kitten leapt happily toward an unsuspecting fly.
With the promise that they would return with food and supplies for the cats, Kasper and Nephew departed, writing the address on a list of residences that house cat colonies.
“Lil Cassidy — the head of Animal Welfare and Rescue Services — and other volunteers have been doing an outstanding job reaching out to people to help with feeding the cats and trapping them to get them spayed or neutered and vaccinated,” said Kasper.
This resident’s story isn’t uncommon, according to Nephew — there are a number of residents around the city taking over the task of caring for these abandoned animals, including “cat mothers” associated with ARWS.
“We need a real shelter,” said Nephew, noting that Elmore SPCA only has so much capacity.
“It’s not cheap, [combatting this issue,] so having the city chip in any amount of money will help to control these colonies and eventually reduce them,” Kasper said.
To report suspected cat colonies in your area or to find out how to volunteer, contact Councilor Becky Kasper at 593-3828 or visit facebook.com/animalrescueandwelfareservices.