By Jeffrey Lerman
Feral cats have been an issue on Long Island for several years now that organizations have formed in an attempt to solve it. Various not-for-profits collect abandoned cats and often neuter them to prevent them from reproducing rapidly. It’s a step in the right direction to prevent feral cats from spreading further.
The major issue people have is distinguishing the difference between a feral cat and a stray cat. The Lost Hope Animal Rescue aims to clear up that difference to inform people. This makes it easier for people to understand the danger of wild cats they encounter as opposed to scared cats nearby. The arising problem of feral cats alongside abandoned cats combines leading people to believe they’re one and the same.
The difference between feral cats and stray cats outright is that a feral cat has adapted to its wild life. It was either raised in the wilderness or has adapted to it through being abandoned for a long period of time. This is a cat that you have to worry about as they become fearful of humans after not having had any interaction for a while. They can react aggressively and potentially give you rabies if they attack.
The Lost Hope Animal Rescue is a not-for-profit shelter for rescuing and rehabilitating stray animals. Their mission is: “Through its many programs, Last Hope is attempting to reduce the tremendous cat and dog overpopulation problem on Long Island, encourage responsible and affordable pet ownership, and transform the public image of the typical pound animal.”
A stray cat however is a cat that is abandoned but is still reliant on humans for survival. They’re often found hiding near civilization and not hunting for food in the woods. Whether it’s a garage, under a car by someone’s house, in a backyard, etc. Anywhere that’s near people so they can possibly get food from them. The life of captivity is still important to them and therefore they’re not as aggressive as feral cats. They’re more likely to cozy up to someone since they don’t know how to survive on their own and still depend on people for food. This is in part why
Since 2010, feral cats have been frantically roaming Coram, NY. Brookhaven’s former Supervisor, Mark Lesko has addressed the issue stating to ABC7 Eyewitness News, “That’s what really drove this, is this feral cat population is hunting, and they’re hunting, among other things, birds. If there’s an endangered species by all means we should all protect.”
The Riverhead Building on campus has several cat houses behind it on the way to the Brookhaven Gymnasium. These cat houses are hidden underneath a clutter of bushes along a pathway the runs along the Riverhead Building. The bushes run far back down the hill they’re on, allowing for a shelter for the cats making this an ideal spot. An issue with this is that there’s consistently litter underneath the bushes that could potentially be brought here by the cats.
It’s questionable whether these cat houses should be here or not as they lure cats to the area. This can be a way to lure cats and then trap them to neuter them, but it’s unknown if this is the purpose. The positive to this is that there may have been cats roaming the campus to begin with and this prevents them from becoming feral. By keeping some form of human interaction with students wandering by and giving them shelter, it keeps them close to civilization.
If the houses weren’t there, they may still lurk on campus but turn aggressive due to that lifestyle. Having the cat houses on campus is a double-edged sword with both positives and negatives to them. Aside from the litter that they have gathered, people have been feeding them kibble. This shows that they’re still reliant on civilization, emphasizing that they’re stray cats rather than feral ones. With how they’re taken care of, it wouldn’t be far off to say they’re pets of whoever takes care of them. It’s possible a student is taking care of them or someone from the Riverhead Building, but this is unknown.
The Lost Hope Animal Rescue has their “Fix-a-Feral” program which mainly focuses on allowing the public to spay and neuter feral cats. People can borrow traps for catching cats in their area. While the program has workshops for educating people about the ongoing issue, it encourages others to focus on cats that are more toward strays than feral. Cats that are fed by house owners are borderline pets and are less likely to react unexpectedly to movement.