There is an estimated 40,000-some stray (lost or abandoned domestic) and feral (wild) cats in the Lane County area. Breaking down that number to reflect Creswell’s cat population has proven a difficult endeavor; to the best of The Chronicle’s knowledge, it is not known how Creswell’s feral cat population stacks up to other areas of Lane County.
But what we do know is that there are no ordinances in place for managing felines in the city. The City of Creswell does not provide for the licensing or control of cats, and furthermore, Lane County as a whole does not have any cat ordinances currently in place.
Kathy and Al January, of Creswell, are perhaps the most well-known and outspoken cat advocates in town. Anecdotally, in cleaning out some old papers in Chronicle desk drawers last week, this reporter found a letter from the Januarys to the previous publisher. The letter focused on issues the city faced some years ago regarding feral and stray cats.
That letter was penned nearly a decade ago; the Januarys have been screaming into the void about the same problems for a long time, and their voices are hoarse with frustration.
They feel there’s a lot more the City could be doing. Lots more. And they find the apathetic nature of the community regarding cats disheartening, to say the least.
Janetta Overholser, president of the Humane Society of Cottage Grove (HSCG), echos similar sentiments as the Januarys. She said that to many, cats are considered no better than vermin. She can recount horror story after horror story about transporting a dozen cats after residents faced eviction; litters of kittens dying in bushes; starving cats stumbling across busy intersections; inbred litters, diseased and sick from living off mice in abandoned vehicles.
Overholser said that people should care for stray or feral cats the same way they would the weak or the elderly. She quoted Mahatma Gandhi, who said that ”the true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members.”
She said stray and feral cats fall under that umbrella of vulnerable creatures, and that it is our responsibility as a society to be good to the less fortunate – including cats without a home.
”If we can make it better for the cats, we can make it better for the community,” Overholser said. ”Cats could become less of a nuisance, less cats will be hit by cars, less injuries will occur, more diseases will be reduced.”
She said having a stray and feral cat population like this ”is not pleasant for anyone,” but believes the community as a whole can help reduce the suffering to these animals.
Currently, the Creswell Municipal Code has no protocol in place for how to deal with cats.
”Bottom line is, the city has no code for cats, method or requirement for licensing, containing, nothing,” Lane County Sheriff’s Office’s (LCSO) Sergeant Scott Denham said.
To City Administrator Michelle Amberg and Denham’s knowledge, the idea of adopting a cat ordinance has not been a topic of discussion or consideration in the past. Amberg mentioned that since her time in Creswell (2014), she has not undertaken discussions regarding a feral cat ordinances, but said she’s encountered issues with cat populations in other regions she’s lived and worked.
She said it’s not an easy situation to remedy.
”Based on my experience in other jurisdictions, feral cats are very difficult to address due to the emotional nature of the issue,” Amberg said.
Furthermore, feral and domestic cats are exempt from the code for ”Care of Stray Animals,” meaning if someone were to find a cat, people have no obligation to surrender the cat to the City or to help find its owner.
Now, if you find a dog at large that is not aggressive, citizens can take the dog to City Hall, where they keep the animal sheltered until its owners are found or it is transferred to HSCG.
Cats don’t have that luxury.
If you find a stray, ”there is nowhere to take it because the City does not have any agreement with the shelters for even domesticated cats,” Denham said.
Despite this, police say they still do what they can within their perimeter of jurisdiction if they were to receive a complaint.
”If the City receives a cat complaint, it is usually referred to us and we will check it out – especially in the case of neglect or abandonment,” Denham said. ”Say a resident left town, but left all of their cats inside the house uncared or provided for. There would be a case for neglect or abandonment and we could charge that under state criminal law, or as a violation into the City.”
However, when people abandon cats outside, Denham said it is very difficult to prove ownership for any charges. Police ”would truthfully not be able to tell the difference between a feral cat and a domestic one unless it had a collar,” he said. ”That is most likely the basis for our problem population: someone left one or more cats behind, they had babies, making more feral cats, and so on. Crimes like neglect, abuse, shooting at cats, abandonment, etc is always something we are going to investigate regardless of the cat’s status.”
To date, one of the best methods for reducing feral cat population is spaying female cats and neutering male cats. HSCG has done the math.
In the first year, one unspayed female cat can yield litters of four, up to four times a year; of those four per litter, half will be females. In one year, she will be responsible for 16 cats, eight of which are female.
In the second year, these offspring will produce 154 cats, half of which are females.
In the third year, the production is 1,376, and half of those are females.
In four years, 13,931 cats will be born. And with half of those being females, the cycle continues. Furthermore, only one in 10 cats born will find a new home; the rest will likely die.
To combat these issues and to alleviate costs, Greenhill offers free spay-neuter to 12 animals per day for the public. There are also $20-off spay-neuter coupons available, as well as other options to consider.
”Finances are no longer what prevents people from spaying-neutering,” Overholser said. ”The problem is getting people to care enough to do the right thing.”
In 2017, HSCG transported 242 cats and dogs to appropriate shelters/rescues. Last year, HSCG also offered financial assistance to help pay to neuter 716 cats and dogs, and arranged foster care for 310 cats and dogs.
Overholser suggested that another angle by which to curtail this population boom within communities such as Creswell or Cottage Grove is for landlords to include a requirement in the lease/rental agreement to have their renters’ cats spayed/neutered upon residency. This could solve the issues in more densely populated areas, such as mobile home parks, where there is often a higher volume of cat congestion.
CAT IN YOUR YARD; WHAT DO YOU DO?
Some may not mind cats hanging around their property, and might find pleasure in providing food and comfort for the outdoor cats. Others may not have taken a liking to the roaming felines, and want to deter them from loitering on their lawns. Either option is OK, but there are proper ways to manage both situations.
”People obviously have the right to protect their property if a cat is damaging, burrowing, attacking, etc. There is a line drawn in whether you can destroy it or not,” Denham said.
Trapping a cat is not illegal; however, dumping a cat out in the forest is.
”People should never dump any animal, but if they are caught dumping a dog or cat, (LCSO) will prosecute them, whether (it be in a) park or somewhere else,” Denham said.
Lane County suggests that there are a few steps residents can take if you have an unwanted feral or stray feline on you property, the first being to talk to your neighbors to try and determine whether the cat is a pet or stray.
You can also apply non-toxic deterrents around your yard, put a tight lid on your trash can, block gaps in the foundation of your house, plus all sheds and outbuildings, and use a car cover.
”Unfortunately, feeding feral cats makes cats stay around,” Denham said. ”Even if they have an original home, if the food is better down the street, guess where they will stay.”
If you see a feral cat, Amberg suggests ”the person to treat it like any other wild animal. If they do not want them hanging around, be sure that you don’t leave food out for them.”
If you do want them hanging around, make sure you have the cats on a regular feeding schedule – at a set time, during daylight hours, in an out-of-the-way place.
”It’s inhumane to stop feeding something when it is used to being fed; they’ll starve,” Overholser said.
Feeding cats regularly and in reasonable quantities which can be consumed in less than 30 minutes or so, will help ensure they don’t get hungry and won’t return to your trashcan.
For a more thorough list of colony management guidelines visit alleycat.org/ColonyCare.