Non-profits care for feral cats

The cats return the favor by hunting rats

By Taylor Hartz and Angela Gagnon | Staff Writers

Local building staff are reminding residents not to feed or approach feral cats that may be spotted in Lakeshore East Park. Although these cats may look like strays that are in need of some TLC, they are well cared for. Many of the cats, and all of those with their ears marked, are regularly fed and given housing and shelter by non-profits as part of the feral cats ordinance.

If you aren’t familiar with this law, here’s the scoop—in September 2007, Cook County passed the Managed Care of Feral Cats ordinance, allowing non-profit organizations to care for feral cats in the county using Trap-Neuter-Release (TNR) programs, with the goal of managing their population numbers.

Several of thse feral cats were introduced into the Lake Shore East Park this winter by the Lakeshore East Masters Association with one particular job in mind. According to Magellan Development Group Community Relations Director Vanessa Casciano, the program was brought to Lakeshore East as way to thwart rat populations in the neighborhood.

“We found this method of pest control is being used in other parts of the city as well as nationwide so we thought [the program] would be a good fit for our Lakeshore East neighborhood,” she said.

Locals have noticed the feral cats in the Park. “I was surprised to see a gray cat limping in the park as we don’t [usually] have strays in this area,” said Lakeshore East resident Zareen Gauhar. “My first thought was the cat was abandoned, but I found out they are brought in to deal with the rats. I was concerned for their safety and also given the freezing cold windy weather we have in the Chicago area.”

Buckingham resident Erica Meyer also shared concerns. “As an animal advocate, this is beyond horrible. I’ve never heard of this type of resolution before. It feels to me like the safety issues aren’t being taken seriously,” she said.

Open cages with camouflaged covers have been placed under trees on the east side of the park allowing the cats to come and go as they please. The cages are within an area that is currently fenced off. Feral cats live outdoors and are not socialized with humans, so are unlikely to react like a normal house cat when they are approached.

Through TNR programs, non-profits like PAWS Chicago, Tree House and Triple R Pets provide care services for the cats. Deemed “cat colony caretakers,” these organizations take the cats to be spayed or neutered and get them vaccinated. Other care may also include parasite treatment, re-homing services, microchipping and feeding.

Feral cats that receive this care are distinguished by being “ear-tipped” so future trappers know they have been neutered and are being cared for, according to a press release from PAWS Chicago. Since 2008, there has been a 41 percent drop in the number of cats in the county. According to PAWS, 18,000 cats have been sterilized.

The TNR program is designed to counter a traditional “Trap and Kill” method. According to PAWS, TNR is “the most humane and progressive way to manage these colonies and control overpopulation.”

Anyone with questions about feral cats in Lake Shore East Park can contact Vanessa
Casciano (312) 642-8869. All community calls and complaints to 311 regarding feral cats are directed to sponsoring organizations that care for the colonies.

Published on May 3

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