Feral cats taking over Grand Rapids neighborhood

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- Some might call it a 'cat-astrophe:' a Grand Rapids neighborhood is overrun with feral cats on the streets.

It's not exactly the easiest problem to deal with. Experts say if you catch them and move them somewhere else, eventually they will come back.

It's not a rare sight to leave a home in the area of Carrier Street NE and North Avenue and be greeted by four or five feral cats.

"Sometimes I walk outside the house and have like 10 cats staring at me," said Nicholas Surman. "I'll have 20 eyes just staring at me when I walk outside. You can come outside at any time of day, it doesn't matter when, and you will see cats on this street."

Nicholas Surman says the problem has gotten worse. He finds dead cats in his driveway and cats hiding in the wheel wells of his car.

"I'll walk outside the house at night and have a cat jump out at me," said Surman. "It's scary."

"The other day I saw a circle of them with about four or five," said Phoebe Bell.

Surman is not alone.  Bell and her dad, Benny, say they had feral cats living underneath their porch.

"In the wintertime, the cats were getting under there for shelter and the other neighborhood creatures also roam around and hang under there," said Benny Bell. "We had a skunk and cat fight under our house and it stunk for months."

"Somebody is feeding those cats or they have a food source," said Carol Manos, founder and director of Carol's Ferals. "When you take all the cats away, more cats will come."

Manos says the problem is widespread.

"Last week we had a couple come in with 28 cats," said Manos.

Manos says the solution is to trap, neuter and return.

"The idea of trap, neuter, return is to fix them and put them back where they are," said Manos. "They will patrol their area and they will keep the others out once they are all fixed...they’re not going to allow newcomers into their food source."

Steve Kelso with the Kent County Health Department recommends services like Carol's Ferals and others. For a $25 fee, you can bring in a feral cat and Animal Control will take it to a shelter. There, some of the friendlier cats may be adopted out. Many ferals are euthanized.

To prevent cats from dying, Carol's Ferals loans out humane live traps people can check out to catch cats. People can bring the cats in and they'll neuter them the next morning for a negotiable fee. They're not an animal shelter, however they take in a limited number of friendly strays and adopt them out.

Manos says returning feral cats to their previous environment is essential to controlling the population. Their website says cats live in colonies with a social structure, and will stop at nothing to get back in or die trying.

It's not a short-term solution, but Manos says it keeps new cats from coming in and those existing cats from reproducing.

"There is an end to it," said Manos. "We can get it under control as long as we all work together."

For more information, visit Carol's Ferals' website.

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