Look closely at this otherwise bucolic garden photo and you will see a haunting and disturbing site. There in the middle, nestled in between my potted tomatoes and peppers, lies the carcass of a cat.
Yes, a cat. And until it shuffled off this mortal coil on Thursday, it was one of the 13+ feral cats living in my neighbor’s backyard. The cat colony was here long before we were, and had already designated our property as their communal toilet. Over the past year and a half, despite my screams and frequent garden hose sprays, they have continued to breeze in and out freely as before, with a haughty saunter and glaring look that says, “Excuse me, but who said you could grow tomatoes in our bathroom?”
Full disclosure: I hate cats. Every cat I have ever met has been a creep, except for one Maine Coon cat who hung out at the laundry mat I frequented in college. So imagine my horror when I woke up on Thursday anticipating a few peaceful moments in my garden before work and instead was confronted – face to tail – with the body of a dead feline.
I screamed, jumped up and down, ran in place and then bolted upstairs just in time to find my boyfriend getting into a car to go to the airport. I was on my own with this one. Unless I wanted to leave the rotting, festering carcass there for three days until he came home, I would need to find a way to remove and dispose of it.
So I channeled my inner pioneer woman, put on my rubber boots and gloves, tied a handkerchief around my face to ward off any airborne disease, and scooped his (or her – I didn’t bother to check) body into an ultra-thick trash bag. Then I disinfected the entire area with Lysol and bleach.
“How did the cat die?” my boyfriend later asked, as if I had performed an autopsy. Who knows how it died? But he made a good point. What if it was poisoned? I know other neighbors have been frustrated – especially as the old woman who feeds the cats has adamantly refused to stop. What if one of them tried to kill the cats? So far, though, none of the other kitties have passed on. I’m hopeful this one died of natural causes.
After this incident, I can truly say that I’m at my wit’s end with these gross little beasts. I’ve called 311, Animal Care & Control, the Department of Health and 911 (What if it had rabies? The dispatcher thought it unlikely.), and no one has been able to help. The best response I got was from the Department of Sanitation, who was willing to arrange for a special off-schedule pick-up to remove the dead body.
My neighbor’s behavior is not illegal, explained each of the aforementioned agencies. The only other way to get rid of the cats – besides starvation – appears to be TNR (Trap Neuter and Release), which sounds, frankly, like a giant P.I.T.A. I simply don’t have the time to take a class on cat trapping, capture 13+ nasty wild cats, ferry them off to get spayed and neutered, bring them home, care for them for a couple of days, and then release them back into my neighbor’s yard so they can continue to shit in mine.
It might be the humane thing to do, but, sorry – it’s just not going to happen.
Our plan all along has been to build a tall fence and run a border of Prikka-Strip along the top, but that’s still a year or two away. In in the meantime, I am going to buy some netting – something spiky – and make a fortress. It will look ugly, but it will be worth it.
The saddest part is that these cats continue to reproduce every six months. I’ll admit that the kittens are adorable, but now that they’re full-sized and staring me down and hissing, I just want them gone.
And the fact that this woman, our neighbor, keeps feeding them is driving me insane. Doesn’t she realize she is doing more harm than good? We’ve tried talking to her, but it hasn’t worked. She continues to toss cat food out of her window like she’s throwing rice at a wedding.
Even though I hate cats, I don’t want them to suffer. I wish I could send them to a cat sanctuary. Or it would be great if there was a TNR company that I could hire to fix the cats. Combined with my new fortress fence, this would be the most effective strategy.
The New York City Feral Cat Initiative is holding a workshop at the Ridgewood Library on August 10th. I probably should attend…