A tidal wave of stray cats is overwhelming neighborhoods across NYC


Category:  News & Politics

Via:  1stwarrior  •  one month ago  •  21 comments

A tidal wave of stray cats is overwhelming neighborhoods across NYC

S E E D E D   C O N T E N T

A tidal wave of stray cats has hit New York City this summer, paralyzing its shelter system as volunteers scramble for solutions and call for more city action.

The stray cats live hard lives, often sick and at risk of infection with missing eyes or limbs. They can also carry parasites and diseases, putting other cats or even people at risk. They poop on doorsteps and kill local wildlife like birds. There are so many that the typically timid animals have become a public nuisance in some hard-hit neighborhoods.

Dozens of new volunteers and cat organizations have sprung to meet the problem, but they say they’re facing burnout. And as the summer kitten season wears on, the cat population shows no signs of stopping and the volunteers aren’t sure they can keep up with the work.

Cat lovers and volunteers are calling for a stronger city response, more spay and neuter services and for more people to adopt.

“We’re not a developing country,” said Jonlyn Freeman, founder of the NYC Cat Rescuer Alliance. “... We’re a first world country. Why is it OK just to have packs of feral cats everywhere? And have them in such bad condition? This is not normal.

“Feral cats are a sign of neglect, just like graffiti ... These feral cats running amok everywhere, it not should not be considered normal in New York City.”

A million cats

There’s no official count of stray and feral cats, but most place the city’s population at around 500,000 — with some estimates as high as a million.

There are groups of cat colonies, in all corners of the five boroughs, especially in low-income neighborhoods with extra empty space. The South Bronx, Jamaica, Queens and South Brooklyn are all stray cat hot spots. It’s not always a super visible problem — stray cats are shy — and it’s generally not as acute an issue in lower Manhattan or Midtown.

After COVID, the city’s stray cat problem became much worse. Spay/neuter services were put on hold, and veterinarian and staffing shortages made the problem worse. At the same time, more people were adopting pets during the pandemic.

But economic instability forced many families to move or get rid of pets they could no longer afford. Others kept their cats, but weren’t able to get them spayed or neutered. The unfixed cats started reproducing, making the problem grow bigger and bigger. Cats can have up to three litters in a year.

With few places to turn, people kicked house cats out of their homes and placed boxes of their kittens on the streets and even under cars. Now, colonies of cats are claiming block after block in outer borough neighborhoods.

Shelters overwhelmed

There’s close to no room left in the pet shelter system and few, or very costly, appointments to get them fixed.

Earlier this month, Animal Care Centers of NYC, which is the main, city-supported nonprofit pet shelter system, actually restricted new arrivals, although Katy Hansen, their director of communications, said they still took in cats in need.

Alexandra Garza, a spokesperson for the ASPCA told the Daily News that intake numbers are rising as adoptions are staying about the same, which means that space in shelters for animals is shrinking.

The dearth of services means that the volunteers and organizations not only can’t keep up but are also seeing the problem getting worse before their eyes as cats continue to reproduce.

“People feel like they have no choice,” Tanya Coleman, co-founder and president of Bronx Community Cats said. “They have no work. If they can’t give it to the shelter, where are they going to send the cat?”

Health risks

Stray cats lead rougher, more dangerous lives. They also compete with native wildlife like birds, and can spread dangerous diseases.

“It’s definitely a problem,” Harrison said. “Free roaming cats do impact wildlife. We all want the same thing. Nobody wants free roaming cats in the environment. The problem is so huge that we all need to work together.”

Outdoor cats are the top transmitter of toxoplasmosis, a parasitic disease that can cause birth defects or miscarriage, according to Grant Sizemore, director of invasive species programs at the American Bird Conservancy. They’re also the top domestic animal carrier of rabies.

Sizemore said cats can have dire consequences on the city’s vibrant bird population, killing over 2 billion birds every year in the United States.

“We are absolutely experiencing a bird conservation crisis,” he said. “And cats are one of the larger nails in that coffin.”

“We need to we need to remove the strain of feral cats from the environment, for the protection of public health and safety for protection of wildlife, and really for the benefit of the cat population as well,” he said.

Ground level action

The work to keep neighborhood blocks more orderly and cats taken care of has fallen to people who are more affected by the issue.

Sassee Walker, 53, feeds several colonies of strays and five trapping sites scattered around East New York, Canarsie and Brownsville. Walker says that in her 10 years trying to make a dent in the stray cat population, she’s never been as busy as she is now.

The whole operation is costly and time-consuming. She spends more than 20 hours a week just outside trapping and feeding cat colonies, and upward of $500 dollars on cat food alone every month, shelling out more for litter and medicine.

“One time I was in so much debt because of all these cats, it was bad. I had maxed out all my cards,” Walker said. “ ... I raise donations, but it can never cover the amount of work that I’m doing.”

She often stays up all night trying to get cats that are evading her traps.

Walker doesn’t see it as a choice: The cats rely on her. But she’s stretched thin, beyond what may be healthy for her. It’s like a second full-time job. She’s got family and friends, and a 3-year-old grandson she would like to spend more time with.

“I’m always fighting with the city,” she said. “Like this should be a job. This shouldn’t be my responsibility.”

Jonlyn Freeman formed a group called NYC Cat Rescuer Alliance to advocate for the rescuers themselves.

“[Last year], we were all hitting our collective breaking points,” Freeman said. “We could see that if nothing changed then this summer would be a tidal wave of feral cat overpopulation. And that’s exactly what happened.”

Tanya Coleman said that while the Bronx has always seen a pretty high stray cat population relative to the rest of the city, it’s grown even more over the past few years due to the high number of evictions and housing insecurity in the borough as reasons for the high numbers of strays, plus the cat numbers snowballing as more cats give birth.

“We have been observing that about 46% of our intake for cats that we’re actually trapping or picking up from our colony locations are adoptable cats, like stray cats that were clearly owned at some point, in some cases neutered and microchipped already,” Coleman said.


jrDiscussion - desc
Professor Participates
1  seeder  1stwarrior    one month ago

OK Adams - what's it gonna be?  Take in all the Illegal Aliens or take care of your massive cat problem.

You can't have two separate sanctuary policies jrSmiley_10_smiley_image.gif

Sadly, the issue with the cats is also the same issue with stray dogs.  People have them as "pets" until, either the cost gets too high based on your income to feed/care for them, or the attitude of "they can take care of themselves" becomes too strong 'cause the reason for getting them, usually for comfort/support, is being pressured by reality.

If you can't take care of them - then don't get them.

We (wife and I) presently have 11 cats - all well fed, groomed, played with, cuddled and protected - AND all are inside cats.

Why so many?  When working, I did wildlife rehabilitation for raptors and other critters as needed by the community/government.  Developed a bond with the animals and one saved cat in 2005 grew to 14.  Unfortunately, we have had three pass on due to cancer and we're very closely watching the existing brood.

Tell you what though, during the winter they're the best damn blanket you could ask for jrSmiley_15_smiley_image.gif

Professor Quiet
1.1  Ronin2  replied to  1stwarrior @1    one month ago

Eleven? And they all get along?

I have two that grew up together for the last 9 years; and at times I question whether they mean to do serious harm to each other. They used to lay together all of the time. Now they rarely do. 

Sometimes I think they are plotting to get rid of me. Mostly when I am late feeding them. Later than 1500 and I get looks that could kill from both. 

Or when I spend too much time on my gaming computer. There is only room for one of them on the back of my chair; and I don't allow "king/queen of the mountain" games. 

Professor Participates
1.1.1  seeder  1stwarrior  replied to  Ronin2 @1.1    one month ago

We use a timed food dispenser - goes off at 5:30, 11:30 and 5:30 and, believe me, they know the times 'cause they are all sitting 'round the bowl as soon as it starts clicking.  The water dispenser holds 164 ounces and we make sure it is constantly full.

All but two get along quite well.  Those two are the youngest (2 y.o.) and are still trying to figure out where they fit in with the pecking order.

The oldest is 17 and she's starting to fade, but dammit, she was the first and is getting all the attention we can give her.  Of the others, one is 14 and the other 9 are three or younger.

And they are all hilarious to watch when they're playing or challenging you to give them attention.

Trout Giggles
Professor Principal
1.2  Trout Giggles  replied to  1stwarrior @1    one month ago

I'm down to one cat after having many cats over the years. This is Charlene. Her boyfriend took the photo


Professor Participates
1.2.1  seeder  1stwarrior  replied to  Trout Giggles @1.2    one month ago

Beautiful young lady.

Trout Giggles
Professor Principal
1.2.2  Trout Giggles  replied to  1stwarrior @1.2.1    one month ago


Perrie Halpern R.A.
Professor Principal
2  Perrie Halpern R.A.    one month ago

Hey, Don't put this on Mayor Adams. Put this on the idiots who got these cats during covid, and then threw them out on the street.

Btw, my daughter Cat, was part of a catch, neuter, and release program, that also took care of a colony of cats in Inwood, Manhattan. 

If you can't take care of them - then don't get them.


Professor Expert
2.1  sandy-2021492  replied to  Perrie Halpern R.A. @2    one month ago

Exactly. This is pretty much the same as puppies for Christmas and chicks or ducklings at Easter - they're taken in when they're cute without much thought, then abandoned when reality sets in.  It's not a government-caused problem. It's a stupid human problem.

Professor Quiet
2.2  Ozzwald  replied to  Perrie Halpern R.A. @2    one month ago
Put this on the idiots who got these cats during covid, and then threw them out on the street.

They did the same thing with dogs.  When we were looking for a rescue dog a year ago, all the rescues in our area were completely full of dogs that were either released to fend for themselves, or turned over to kill shelters in the area.

We felt so bad we adopted 2.

charger 383
Professor Silent
3  charger 383    one month ago

This topic could become interesting..  

Professor Participates
3.1  seeder  1stwarrior  replied to  charger 383 @3    one month ago


Professor Quiet
4  Ronin2    one month ago

With all of the feral cats- shouldn't the rat problem in NYC be more under control.

Unless the rats are big enough to be hunting the cats.

Professor Participates
4.1  seeder  1stwarrior  replied to  Ronin2 @4    one month ago

Actually, cats are "afraid" of rats - or so the studies say.

Professor Quiet
4.1.1  Ronin2  replied to  1stwarrior @4.1    one month ago

Someone tell that to my 9 pound female Torte; that a year ago took down a 10 ounce rat that managed to get into our basement. Thing was longer than she was nose to tail.

Still want to know how the rat got into the house. Been searching for holes both exterior and interior for about a year now.

Professor Participates
4.1.2  seeder  1stwarrior  replied to  Ronin2 @4.1.1    one month ago

FYI - 

Cats Are No Match for New York City’s Rats

Despite popular wisdom, rats are too big and too fierce for cats.

Probably a good thing you don't live in NYC.  I've heard that EVERYTHING is mean up there jrSmiley_10_smiley_image.gif

Professor Principal
5  Kavika     one month ago

This is a nationwide problem and the shelters are overflowing with cats and dogs. The Marion County shelter is more than overflowing and are asking for any help they can get, foster adopt,ion and no fees. The shelter that I volunteer time at is maxed out and each time we get one adopted we help out Marion by taking one of their animals. 

We provide CNR, capture, neuter, and release on feral cats and have done up to 400 in a month. 

The problem isn't government it's the assholes that abandon them. Together with Chewy, we provide cat/dog/bird/fish food to numerous shelters still it's not enough. We also have our own low cost vet clinic that can do anything from shots to much more serious things such as major surgery etc. We also provide pet food for low income folks that are struggling. 

''You can tell a man's character by the way he treats animals'' and from what I've seen over the years that are a lot with no character at all.


Professor Expert
5.1  sandy-2021492  replied to  Kavika @5    one month ago

We've always got our cats from rescues or animal shelters.  My dog is a rescue mutt my ex found tied up, thirsty, and starved for attention on his mail route.  His owners gave him to my ex, and now he's my bud.

Trout Giggles
Professor Principal
6  Trout Giggles    one month ago

I know people that would rather get an expensive tattoo than spay their cat

Professor Participates
6.1  seeder  1stwarrior  replied to  Trout Giggles @6    one month ago

jrSmiley_12_smiley_image.gif jrSmiley_28_smiley_image.gif jrSmiley_13_smiley_image.gif

Soon as they hit four months - the vet knows they're comin'.

Masters Quiet
7  shona1    one month ago

Morning...this is Cheetah aka as Terrorist my SIL found her out in the bush about 5 months ago. She could fit in the palm of your hand. They already have two cats from the shelter and looked for a home for her..

But as things are getting harder no one wanted her so they are now a three cat household..


Trout Giggles
Professor Principal
7.1  Trout Giggles  replied to  shona1 @7    one month ago

Aww...she's pretty. I'm partial to tabbies


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