Douglas Estates' Residents Bring Issue Of Feral Cat Problem To City Officials
Not everything is cute and furry when it comes to cats in the Saugatuck area.
While local fire department representatives reported a mother cat climbing a ladder to rescue her kittens during a recent house blaze, the issue of feral cats in the City of Douglas continues to boil.
Five residents from the Douglas Estates manufactured housing community—who declined to identify themselves citing the issue was too controversial and thus, feared retaliation—went to Monday’s Douglas City Council meeting to voice their concern that a volunteer group called “A Feral Haven” is promoting the increase of the feral cat population by feeding and housing them.
A Feral Cat organization partners with community caregivers to spay, neuter, vaccinate, feed and shelter feral cats. Douglas Estates reportedly has two colonies totaling some 20 cats, of which one is yet to be neutered, according to A Feral Cat caretakers.
“The U.S. Humane Society and other animal welfare agencies estimate there are as many outdoor cats as there are indoor cats. In Ottawa County, they estimate there are 23,000 indoor cats; that is a lot of cats,” Deb Westerhof of nonprofit A Feral Haven told The Local Observer.
“Eventually there is a solution to the problem, but it does take time.”
That solution, according to Westerhof, is to “trap, neuter and release.” Merely removing the cats—specifically those cats living in a colony that have been neutered—will only insure the problem persists and never goes away.
Cats are territorial and lone cats will keep away from already formed colonies, including colonies that are neutered and spayed, Westerhof explained.
Additionally, neutered cats don’t go into heat so they don’t attract outside cats, she added.
“Unfortunately, mobile home parks and apartment complexes is where a lot of people live; they seem to replenish the cat population. All it takes is for one person to leave an unspayed cat outdoors.
“One unspayed female cat can produce two to three litters a year (each litter usually can produce up to five kittens).”
Among the complaints shared by local residents who attended Monday’s meeting, include cats attacking birds, cat waste making it difficult to mow the lawn, and severely physically—and mentally—disabled cats not being properly attended to.
“I wish I had a solution, but I don’t know what it is,” said a Douglas Estates resident at the meeting.
Others suggested the solution can at least begin by not feeding the cats, thereby discouraging cats from staying in the area and others from moving into the locale.
“This just has to stop; we have to find a way,” said Douglas Mayor Jim Wiley.
After hearing complaints and discussion, council directed staff to try and solve the problem by “going after the owner” of Douglas Estates, Nathan Leader, and enforce the city regulations related to problems caused by animals.
“It (removing cats) absolutely isn’t a solution. If you do so, more cats will come in. It’s called a ‘vacuum effect.’ You haven’t solved the problem, you just delayed it,” said Westerhof in response to possible city action.
Volunteer caretakers and Douglas Estates residents Peggy Johnson and Milo Rizzo say they understand the frustrations coming from some of their fellow residents, but contend the cat population has flatlined since they started the A Feral Cat program in 2015.
One 40-year resident at Douglas Estates says the problem has always been there.
While the feral cat problem is concentrated at Douglas Estates, there are feral cats all over the city, Douglas council members conceded.