Trapping, neuter, release programs can help with problem of feral felines

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published November 6, 2020

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STERLING  HEIGHTS — Sterling Heights resident Donna Polom says she is frustrated with having to clean up after animals who aren’t her pets: namely, the feral cats that popped up in her neighborhood due, she said, to a nearby cat harborer.

As a nurse, she believes these stray cats have become a health hazard, defecating 30 or more times in her yard per week.

“I have had to clean my yard of cat defecation for more than a year now,” she said. “I would say most residents are unaware of the problems that these cat colonies endure and the health hazards they pose. … The cat feces can draw other vermin into the neighborhood. The cats may be rabid and carry other varieties of illness.”

However, animal control and welfare agencies have a solution for problems such as these: humane trapping. Polom said she is working with the Sterling Heights Police Department’s animal control unit and Michigan Humane — formerly called the Michigan Humane Society.

In doing so, she said she is now certified for a trap, neuter and release program. And while she said her feral cat problem persists, she now can trap the felines and take them to organizations such as Michigan Humane to get them neutered.

Anna Chrisman, the media manager for Michigan Humane, said TNR programs are a healthy, sustainable way to keep the feral cat population down. According to the organization’s website, the captured cats are also vaccinated and ear-tipped to identify their neutered status.

“The program focuses on sterilization of the current cats to prevent additional litters and maintains the cats in the area so new cats are not constantly moving in,” Chrisman said. “TNR programs also offer health benefits to the cats and to humans, as well.”

Chrisman added that concerned residents who encounter strange cats on their property should first consider what might be attracting the felines. That may include a deck or a shed where a cat can seek shelter, sleep or give birth to a litter. Or maybe the cats are drawn to trash cans or compost for food. A hole in the fence may allow the critters easy access, she explained.

“Cats, even large adults, can squeeze through some pretty small spaces,” she said in an email. “Removing these elements may help in curbing the presence of cats in your area, as a lack of food and shelter makes them less desirable.”

A Sterling Heights animal control officer who declined to be identified said the city gets daily complaints about feral cats. She said open feeding — people leaving food out — is a common problem, and she mentioned that the city has specific rules against ground feeding.

“You’re not allowed to put a plate of food on the ground,” she said. “We try and discourage people from leaving food out constantly.”

The officer also talked about the TNR program and the need to rescue and domesticate trapped kittens before they become feral. She added that older feral cats’ quality of life and life expectancy are “extremely diminished.”

Sterling Heights police Capt. Kenneth Pappas said the city gets “a lot of requests” for assistance when it comes to feral cats. But he said the city has had a backlog of residents requesting traps because COVID-19 made it hard to find groups that would accept the animals.

“Right now, we have 65 requests for traps,” he said. “What’s restricting us from trapping right now is we have no place to take the animals. We don’t have facilities due to COVID that will take on the animals.”

Pappas described the traps as rectangular cages that close when the cat walks into them to get food.

“There is no hurting of the animals,” he said.

Find out more about Michigan Humane and TNR programs by visiting Find out more about the Sterling Heights Police Department by calling (586) 446-2800.