Kay Whelan has a cat problem. The backyard of her three-family home on Griswold Avenue is filled each morning and evening with up to a dozen stray cats and the options available to her to correct the problem are not acceptable.
“I prefer not to kill them,” said Whelan, who has gone to animal control and the ASPCA. Both groups told her they could only euthanize the cats, because they are not adoptable. “A few of them have been spayed and neutered,” she said, “so someone has obviously dumped these cats out here.”
Yet many of the cats are feral, and have not been neutered. Whelan admitted that two of the feral cats have been slinking around in her yard for eight years, and that she has come to know these two and has fed them. “But I don’t want twelve!” she said.
Neighbors are growing upset with the influx. “People are yelling at me, they’re blaming me,” says Whelan. “But what can I do? I’ve tried everything, and no one will give me help. I just want to be able to go sit in my backyard.”
Whelan’s tenant Ann Welch lives downstairs on the ground floor and sometimes feeds the cats. But she warns: “The feral ones are very dangerous. If you approach them they will scratch and bite you. I have long red marks all along my legs that prove it.”
Whelan believes that people are dumping the cats in the woodsy lots to the right of her home. “It’s a mean thing to do this, to dump them here.” One morning, Welch left her door open and a cat ran inside and jumped into bed with her. “That’s not a wild cat, that’s a domestic cat,” she said. “Why would someone dump a domestic cat out by the rocks?”
Rachel Mazza, of Throgsmorton Avenue, is president of the Throggs Neck Girls Softball League and also an animal activist. Mazza pointed to an infamous void—the lack of any animal shelter in the borough—as the big problem.
“A lot of people are not aware that there’s no shelter,” said Mazza. “But those who do know, they do trap and release.” The practice Mazza referred to involves catching a cat, having it spayed or neutered, and re-releasing it into the neighborhood.
A flier advertising that sort of program was left for Kay Whelan under her door on Monday. “Please Don’t Trap,” the flier pleads. “TNR (Trap, Neuter, Return) is the most humane solution to the feral cat population… Neutered cats no longer howl, fight, spray, or reproduce.” The flier makes a good argument, but Whelan counters, “Well, they’re not the ones who have to pick up cat crap.”
“It’s more of a people problem than a cat problem,” said Mazza, “because that’s where they belong, outside.” That may be true, but for people like Whelan, a yard full of strays is more than just a pesky inconvenience. For now, the war wages on.
Reach reporter Daniel Roberts at (718) 742-3383 or firstname.lastname@example.org