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Resident asks Emmaus for help with feral cats

Published On: Sep 17 2013 12:03:29 AM EDT   Updated On: Sep 17 2013 06:46:30 AM EDT

Emmaus officials are being asked to control feral cats in a borough neighborhood.

The request was made to borough council Monday night by resident Sherry Meck, who lives in the 1100 block of W. Broad St., a quiet neighborhood between Pennsylvania Avenue and the railroad tracks.

Meck said at least 20 feral cats are in her neighborhood, twice as many as just one year ago. And she added that number doesn’t include two litters of kittens recently born in a shed behind her neighbor’s home. She told council that perpetually pregnant females roam the neighborhood.

If the borough doesn’t do something, she predicted, “This problem is going to just get worse.”

She reported one feral female cat can have two or three litters a year, each with four to six kittens. “In a seven-year period, one female cat and her offspring can produce between 150,000 to 420,000 cats,” claimed Meck. “Male cats can father 2,500 kittens per year.”

She said cats are howling and battling in the middle of the night and “we have to deal with the stink of male urine on our property.”

“This morning when I walked outside, with the rain, it smelled like a litter box,” she told council. “I cannot walk in my yard without looking for cat poop. I have stepped in it many times. It is not pleasant.”

She said yards, gardens and flower beds throughout her neighborhood have become outdoor litter boxes for the wild cats.

“I have a neighbor who spends hundreds of hours on her beautiful gardens in the front and the back of her house. She recently said to me that she can’t wait until the frost comes because these cats have just destroyed the beauty of her garden. She has a lot of mulch around her property and they use it as a litter box.”

She said the cats broke into the summer porch of another neighbor’s home and did $1,500 worth of damage.

“A lot of people in the neighborhood are fed up with this, but no one wants to come forward,” said Meck after the council meeting.

She’s concerned some neighbors “who are very good people” will resort to desperate action, such as poisoning the cats, shooting them with BB guns or hurting them in some other way. She said otherwise law-abiding citizens who resort to such measures can be jailed or fined for cruelty to animals.

She told council that “very good-hearted people in our neighborhood are feeding these feral cats. I know that their heart is in the right place. The unintended consequences of feeding these strays causes well-fed strays to breed more often, have bigger and healthier litters and better survival rates. If you feed, you breed.”

She said she’s called animal rescue groups for help “but no rescue I called will take feral cats.”

After the meeting, officials said they were not aware that a feral cat problem exists anywhere in Emmaus.

Borough manager Shane Pepe said Meck’s complaint was one of only two he has received about feral cats in Emmaus, adding both complaints came from the same neighborhood. He added: “I’m not saying it’s not a problem.”

“Part of the problem is the cost issue,” said Pepe. “If you give them to the SPCA, they’re going to destroy them, but you’ve got to give them $50 a cat.”

Officials said Emmaus does have an animal control officer, who responds to complaints about cats.

After that meeting, Meck said that officer was difficult to reach and no help when she did reach him. He offered to loan her a live animal trap, but said it would be her responsibility to pay $35 to have each cat she caught sterilized and then released back where she caught it. “He’s absolutely useless,” declared Meck.

Meck said when her neighbor contacted Pepe about the problem, the borough manager recommended they attend the next meeting of council’s public safety committee at 3 p.m. Oct. 2.

Said Meck: “All my neighbors who are concerned about this problem work. So we cannot attend a meeting at that time.” She asked that council members present her concerns at that meeting or reschedule it for a time when residents can attend.

Council president Lee Ann Gilbert, who chairs that public safety committee, said it is on the agenda for discussion at that Oct. 2 meeting. She thanked Meck for all her suggestions.

To solve the immediate problem, Meck recommended the borough’s animal control officer capture the feral cats and hold them for about five days. Then –if no one claims or rescues them – the borough should pay to have them sterilized or euthanized.

“I know this sounds harsh and cruel,” said Meck, who told council she is an animal lover who owns two dogs.

She said if anyone would claim the captured cats, within 14 days they should be required to pay to have them sterilized and given immunization shots.

Meck said feral cats can spread fleas and feline leukemia. She said they also can get struck by cars, adding then “they either die or they suffer.”

“You have mandated dog laws,” Meck told council. “I’m asking you to start instituting some laws for people who have their own cats and who are helping these feral cats survive and breed more.

“Make it financially uncomfortable for people who own unaltered cats and leave their cats outdoors or for people who feed cats outdoors. Make it a hefty fine.”

She suggested laws making it illegal for people to abandon cats or to not spay or neuter their cats. She also suggested low-cost clinics be established in the borough to have cats sterilized.

She said cats should be licensed “just as dogs are,” and even kept on leashes when outdoors. “And they must clean up after their cats just as we dog owners have to clean up after our dogs.”