Schenectady County

Volunteers working to sterilize cats in Rotterdam neighborhood

Lucy Road’s feral cat population could eventually be on the decline, if efforts to sterilize the col

Lucy Road’s feral cat population could eventually be on the decline, if efforts to sterilize the colony are successful.

For about a month now, a resident down the street from 85-year-old Millie DiCaprio has been dutifully trapping the felines and bringing them to clinics to have them spayed or neutered. Yet the population might not appear any different, since she’s also releasing them back into the neighborhood.

Terri Cook, a Ballston Spa volunteer who works with feral cat populations, has helped Patricia Crandall trap nearly a dozen of the felines over the past month. Before they are released, the cats are brought to a clinic to be fixed, given immunization shots and have the tip of their left ear removed to identify them as sterile animals.

“You stop the reproduction and within a couple of years you’re going to have half the feral population gone,” she said Tuesday.

An existing colony of feral animals will often prevent new ones from inhabiting a neighborhood, said Cathy Doran, a volunteer with the Albany-based Saving Capital Region Unowned Feral Felines. Simply removing the cats, however, often creates a vacuum that will then attract others to inhabit the neighborhood.

“They know there’s a source of food and they can smell other cats,” she said.

Of course, getting feral cats spayed or neutered isn’t cheap. Veterinarians specializing in curbing feral cat colonies typical charge between $35 and $45 per cat.

Other options include bringing the animals somewhere that offers free clinics. Dr. Susan Sikule of Albany schedules a weekend clinic each month where she sometimes sterilizes upward of 50 cats.

Cook is among the trappers that utilize the free clinics, but also raises funds and solicits donations from area businesses to pay for the cost. She said keeping feral cat colonies in check is crucial, considering they can quickly grow out of control.

“They are just the by-product of a bad situation,” she said of the feral cats.

Ceasing to put food out for the cats won’t deter them from populating the neighborhood, said Linda Young of KittyCorner, a central New York-based organization that works to keep feral cat populations under control. She said feeding bans don’t work because feral cats will almost always find another source of nourishment, whether it’s from garbage or hunting smaller creatures.

“Feral cats are survivors,” she said in an email. “They can survive with no help, or they can be spayed or neutered, vaccinated, and managed responsibly.”

Dan Lange, the Lucy Road neighbor who spoke out about the cat population at DiCaprio’s house, said he doesn’t mind efforts to sterilize the colony. But he doesn’t agree with people feeding them.

He believes feeding animals that are considered wild will only add to the problem.

“If you feed them they’re yours,” he said. “And if you feed them, you should be responsible for having them sterilized.”

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