“There’s a feral cat problem in Bayonne. We all know that,” said Bayonne Health Officer, Vinnie Revelli in front of a crowd of Bayonne residents who came to city hall for a certification course in trapping, neutering, and spaying feral cats in the city. “Now, we’re here together to help try to solve this problem.”
The city held the certification course weeks after 47 animals were found abandoned at a home on East 24th Street. Kids from the Police Athletic League raised money and supplies to help the city find the animals new homes. Most have now been placed, and that kind of experience is becoming more frequent across the city.
Bayonne’s geography as a peninsula helps restrict cats from coming in, but only spaying and neutering can prevent the cats already here from reproducing.“We’re trying to do right by the animals, and right by the public,” said Dorothy Ronkowski, who works in constituent services for the City of Bayonne. “This way, the cats can live out their lives instead of populating out of control right now.”
City officials attribute a combination of feeding and reproduction as cause for the problem. “People are out here feeding the cats, and the cats keep reproducing. It’s a cycle,” said Revelli. “If we can keep the cats from reproducing, that would help keep the population down.”
“If you’ve never trapped a cat before, it’s going to be very scary the first time.” – Valerie Wilson
With the help of the community
Bayonne residents usually support these feral cat communities by feeding and sheltering the cats. Currently, there is a feral cat colony behind the former A&P site near 7th Street and Newark Bay, but the city is planning to construct a designated site on 5th Street. Revelli said the new program will be modeled after a similar program in Secaucus, where volunteers can maintain and clean the facility. The feral cat colony behind the A&P is not a suitable place for the cats, because garbage accumulates in the area, and cats can wreak havoc on the local ecosystem by hunting birds, reptiles, and small mammals.
“If you’ve never trapped a cat before, it’s going to be very scary the first time,” said Valerie Wilson, who works for People for Animals, a NJ-based spay/neuter clinic. In a series of demonstrations, she showed a group of residents the proper way to trap a feral cat. It starts with setting a trap with food inside. After feral cats are trapped and then spayed or neutered, they are returned to their neighborhoods. According to Wilson, feral cats are territorial and stay in the same area for their entire lives, so they need to be transported back to where they came from.
The scary part of the process comes when the trapper first encounters the trapped cat. Often the cat will be a little bloody, either from clawing at the cage or bumping its nose against it.
Wilson instructed the participants to place a blanket over the cage to calm the cat, and transport it to the nearest Spay Shuttle, a mobile spay and neuter service hosted by People for Animals.
The shuttle, which was commissioned in 1985 as part of a pilot program by the State of New Jersey, was formerly called the “neuter scooter.” It requires registration, which can be done online or over the phone. People for Animals is online at pfaonline.org .
When the audience asked how to tell whether a cat is friendly or not, Wilson said to tap the cat’s rear end above the tail with a stick, or anything that could fit through the bars on the trap. If the cat raises its butt, then it’s a nice cat. If not, the trapper might want to be cautious. Cat scratches and bites can become infected quickly, and some feral cats can carry diseases.
The city is working to create a more permanent neuter/spay clinic with the new feral cat colony site. People for Animals will run the shuttle at nocost to residents, which otherwise would be $55.
Rory Pasquariello can be reached at email@example.com.