Feral cats taking over Grand Rapids neighborhood

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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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  • Old Bob

    I trapped cats for years and took them to be fixed and let them go again. Then I started taking them to the Humane Society, two or three a week. I didn’t cut down on the feral cat population at all. I gave up.

    • Gabb

      Educate yourself on “the vacuum effect.”
      Then realize Carol’s Ferals has fixed over 11,000 street cats in this city.
      Then realize that if each of those cats only had 6 babies in it’s entire life…CF has prevented the birth and suffering of over 66,000 cats in this city.

      Then you can come back here and apologize for such an asinine statement.
      Do you know any cats that only have 6 babies in their entire life? Do the math.

      • Duff Smith

        He doesn’t need to apologize. You know what I do when I trap all the cats in an area and some idiot who doesn’t even own a vacuum breeds and releases more of them? I keep on trapping.

  • Jessie

    I am still trying to get my head around the statement that the animal control does not address this “animal control” issue. And further wants to charge the public to perform their job?

  • Jamie

    I discovered a colony of around 50 a few years ago. I started trapping and spay/neutering them. Now there’s less than 20.
    Spay /Neuter is the answer.
    TNR is the only truely humane and effective solution.

  • Amy Anthony

    An typical shelter, even a no-kill, will not do well by the homeless cats. If they are removed, there is a ‘vacuum effect’. If they get fixed and someone provides support consisting of food, water and an insulated shelter, they will stick to that small area and not reproduce. Someone probably fed them but became unreliable. They beg because they are hungry, thirsty, have to watch their backs 24/7, and will soon be very cold. Once support is established, it may become evident which cats could possibly adjust back to indoor life. The neighborhood awareness should also consist of vigilance against people abandoning and mistreating pets.

  • MMM

    Spaying and neutering is the only way to go for these poor homeless cats, if we must. Slaughtering innocent creatures is not acceptable. We don’t capture, castrate or sterilize the homeless humans or thousands of illegal aliens among us. Maybe we should. Humans are most destructive but can make choices about their destiny.. The poor cats suffer hunger, thirst, and cruelty. Winter is coming. They get no warmth, food, or shelter. It is a tribute to mom cats that any babies survive at all. Cats perform a reciprocal service for a bit of food – they keep away vermin from homes. Please don’t take out frustrations or prejudice on the poor creatures who also are important in this world and deserve to live, just as we humans struggle to live. Call Carole’s Ferals if you see a problem and become part of the humane solution.

    • Amy Anthony

      I agree, frustration and prejudice drive the push to kill these displaced pets and street-borns. It makes humans seem ignorant and hypocritical when all they can think of is kill.

  • Marian Brown

    trap neuter return is a complete failure, never works, and discourages responsible pet owners and degrades public health. Euthanasia of feral cats or adoption to responsible owners for socialized cats will reduce feral cat populations faster, safely, humanely, and keeps the fleas, parasites, and Toxoplasma gondii exposure down.

  • Duff Smith

    The Youtube video “Cat Colonies Exposed” will show you all exactly what you’re dealing with. The “vacuum effect” is BS. Anyone who utters this argument clearly has no intention of reducing the cat population. All cats are living things that eventually die and how does a “naturally” deceased cat defend territory any better than a euthanized one? When pet food industry lobbyists invade your community and take over your animal control policy & enforcement, you not only won’t have animal control but they will marshall your public resources to investigate dead cats and haul people to jail who dare try to defend their family from disease. Your animal control is being modeled after India. The cat nutters do not need to convert you to their way of thinking. You and your family will be SEROconverted to their way of thinking when you are infected with toxoplasmosis.

    • Amy Anthony

      There are thousands upon thousands of managed colonies. Yet there’s no toxoplasmosis epidemic, is there? These colonies have been quietly managed because caregivers realize the need to avoid the actions of paranoid hater types. Not all caregivers are perfect, but neither are people in general. And vacuum effect is valid and real. I’d venture to say that people who are vehemently pro-kill have already done so and have in the process killed house pets who are let out.

  • Jack M

    City of Grand Rapids ELECTED Officials and Pheobe Bell: “Feral Cats”. Every single cat on the streets was abandoned by a GRAND RAPIDS RESIDENT. Feral cats are simply unsocialized grandchildren of previously abandoned cats. WHEN are elected officials and city agencies going to do their job and STOP criminal abandonment of cats and litters?When are residents going to become VIGILANT about neighbors dumping cats and allowing them out unfixed to breed freely with homeless cats? How many garbage bags of kitten litters end up in our waterways and trash receptacles? Hundreds per year. 6 Years ago I saw a couple dump a litter on a block where there ere several homeless cat