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Homeless cat population a problem for North Versailles residents, shelters

| Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014, 5:41 a.m.

Feral cats continue to plague North Versailles Township's Fairhaven neighborhood.

Resident Marlene Gottron and her neighbor Tom Garvin came before township commissioners last month to discuss the issue.

Gottron said at a commissioners meeting on Thursday that the number of cats they are dealing with has grown from six to nine, and the destruction has continued.

“When I go out in the morning, I have to take a broom because they're in my yard,” Gottron said. “They're in my driveway. They don't run. The backs go up on them ... This woman next door keeps on feeding these cats and they won't leave.”

Ken Ferree, whose company handles animal control for the township, said he does not pick up cats, but organizations like In Care of Cats can help.

“They're so dedicated to help, but it is a difficult and a long process to get the cats picked up because there's no laws against the cats,” Ferree said. “Only law is if the cat's over 3 months old and you own it, it has to have rabies shots. Other than that, there's no legislation.”

Ferree said there may be local ordinances limiting the number of animals to a household, but nothing says a person who feeds a cat is its owner.

“A lady who feeds four or five cats and runs a country buffet on a front porch, is she considered the owner? Under the law, no,” he said.

“It seems like the cats have more rights than the taxpayers do,” Gottron said. “I don't own a dog. I don't own a cat, but every day I'm out with a shovel shoveling (cat waste) up.”

Gottron said if people would stop feeding cats, there would be fewer in the area.

Board of commissioners president George Thompson said township officials are working to get residents animal traps.

Risé Chontos of In Care of Cats in Elizabeth Township said her organization will help where it can, but the public needs to do its part.

“Everyone must do more if this is ever to be made right,” Chontos said. “We will pick a few up in (North Versailles) this week, for sure. Don't know where we'll put them, but we'll do it to keep the peace, and stave off execution for the others.”

Ferree said the township is looking to set up a pet permit to help offset funds spent collecting stray cats.

He said feral cat problems are not limited to North Versailles.

“In Allegheny County, you're basically inundated with cats,” Ferree said. “You're talking hundreds and hundreds of cats per neighborhood. It's very difficult to find appropriate homes. Shelters are overfull. I have two calls right now into the board of two shelters in Pittsburgh, and they're deciding whether or not they can try to help us because they only have so much room.”

White Oak Animal Safe Haven is one such shelter that has reached its capacity.

“We don't have room to take people's cats,” Safe Haven cat coordinator Cecilia Foor said. “We can help you get them spayed and neutered ... When you're full you're full. You only have so much cage rooms. When (cats) are true ferals, they're hard to adopt.”

Foor said the best way to control the cat population is to trap them and have them spayed or neutered.

Cats can start having litters as early as 6 months old, and can have three litters, between four and seven kittens each, a year, Foor said.

Chontos said some of the cats may have been pets at one point and were left by their owners.

“They are most often dumped because of mating behavior, rather than owners fulfilling their commitment to the pet by getting it spayed (or) neutered,” Chontos said. “The offspring of abandonment never know the care of humans, and are unsocialized, but over 95 percent of them do not survive long enough to mate so there are very few true ferals among the population. We hate the word. It means wild. They are domesticated companion animals forced to fend for themselves.”

Foor said residents can trap animals on their property or can give other organizations permission to trap.

Foor mentioned Animal Friends, Animal Rescue League Shelter & Wildlife Center and the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society as other organizations to help people with cat problems. She said traps can be purchased at Harbor Freight.

Michael DiVittorio is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1965,or

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