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Feeding Feral Cats
A neighbor leaves bowls of food around the neighborhood for feral cats, even placing some on the grounds of the Russian diplomatic mission at the end of our block. I’ve asked her to stop, and I remove food when I can, but to no avail. The cats treat my garden like their litter box, track mud over my car and wail and moan when they fight or mate. Worse, the food attracts skunks. A neighbor’s dog was sprayed twice and my shuttered window was sprayed, filling my house with the stench. Another neighbor and I trapped seven skunks to be released in Pelham Bay Park, but there are more. What recourse do I have?
Until the endless buffet subsides, skunks will continue to forage nearby. A state-licensed wildlife control expert could keep trapping them, but other wildlife will follow, and a professional will not trap and remove the cats. “They could be somebody’s pet,” said Diego Vasquez, the owner of Dr. Pest Control NY, an environmental services company in Queens.
Turn your attention to the cats. Reach out to the feral cat initiative, which advocates a method known as trap-neuter-return, or T.N.R., to control feral colonies. The animals are captured so they can be spayed or neutered, vaccinated and returned to their colony. Tame ones can be adopted. Once neutered, they will no longer spray, fight or mate, so over time, their numbers dwindle.
(New York Times, May 7)
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The Internet may never tire of cats, but the people of Ypres, Belgium, sure did — to the point that they created a whole city celebration out of tossing cats to their death from a bell tower.
The practice apparently dates from the Middle Ages, when Ypres, a market town in Flanders, first prospered as a center of clothmaking. The city’s warehouses would fill with bales of imported wool waiting to be woven, and bolts of finished cloth waiting to be sold at an annual fair.
The warehouses drew mice and rats, which would nest and breed prolifically in an environment like that. To keep the vermin from chewing up the goods, the story goes, merchants would bring in a few hungry cats to hunt them. But the hunters would multiply, too, and by the time of the fair each spring, the place would be overrun with feral cats creating a nuisance of their own.
In those crueler times, hurling cats from a great height on what came to be known as “Cats Wednesday” was apparently seen in Ypres as both a practical solution and a source of gruesome entertainment — the more so because popular superstitions linked cats to witchcraft and the devil. According to a history posted online by the city, in the Middle Ages many European towns dealt with feral-cat problems in similarly inhumane ways, but it was Ypres that retained the bloody reputation.
(New York Times, May 10)