During the 13 years my business has been located in the city of Dearborn, I've heard quite a bit about how the city has a problem with rats. However, after moving into the city to live, I discovered an equally disturbing, four lettered word the city has a problem with: CATS.
Stray cats are in all major U.S. cities these days, a problem made increasingly bigger by the difficulties faced in tough economic times. People everywhere have been forced to give up their pets due to a lack of money and this, coupled with how quickly they breed, has dramatically raised the number of homeless and feral cats living on the streets in Dearborn.
Adding to this problem is a segment of the population who feels that by feeding street cats they are helping the cats. A number of these same people also offer them "homes" by allowing the cats to live under their porches or in their garage. These people honestly feel they are helping the stray cats by "providing" for them, but quite the opposite is true.
There are those who feel a cat or two being fed in the yard is no big deal, but cats with no medical attention, especially cats that are not neutered or spayed, have an amazing ability to reproduce. According to the Michigan Humane Society a single unspayed female cat, her mate and all their offspring can produce a total of 370,092 kittens in just seven years.
Some folks think that trapping the stray cats and having them spayed or neutered is cruel, but in reality it is far more cruel to the cats and the environment to not get them sterilized. A population of feral cats can destroy a local or migrating bird population, and can themselves become food for coyotes and birds of prey like hawks and owls. A cat is similar in size to a rabbit, and a kitten is light weight and easily snatched from a backyard. With birds of prey actually swooping into yards and attacking small terriers it is not a surprise cats who are constantly outdoors are also targets.
A number of cities have trap-neuter-release programs that work, and even if not city run, have greatly reduced the cat population. Hamtramck and Redford are two of those cities, with citizen-run animal rescue organizations that understand the importance of population control. Their efforts over the past few years have greatly reduced the number of homeless and stray cats in their areas, while also relieving stress on the local economy. They work with veterinarians who understand the issue, and offer low cost treatment so the cats are sterilized and treated for underlying health issues. This helps stop the spread of disease to house pets.
A sad and disturbing fact to note here is that in the state of Michigan, more than 60 percent of the cats in shelters are euthanized. In 2010 alone, more than 60,500 cats were euthanized in shelters in Michigan. This number does not include the staggering amount of cats hit by cars, eaten by predators, or disposed of in some way after a human decides to not keep the kittens born in their backyard.
Dogs in Dearborn are subject to many rules and regulations and must be licensed and always on a leash or in a fenced yard. There are ordinances against feeding birds and squirrels on the ground.
Is the cat overpopulation not being treated as an issue because the city is hoping the cats will keep the rats under control? That is a foolish idea, especially when these ferals are being fed by people who think it is the right thing to do, and that cat food is simply attracting more rodents.
Feral cats and alley cats are a human-made problem. Feral cats often cannot be tamed, and most shelters must put them to sleep. For humans to be responsible about this issue the best thing they can do is trap the cats, have them neutered, and release them back into the neighborhood. Cats mark their territory, which keeps other cats away, and so the best course of action is to get all strays neutered. Stop the influx of new cats, both from breeding and from other areas.
Friends of the Dearborn Animal Shelter offers help to those who have feral cats in their yard or on their property. The Michigan Humane Society has made donations to help with low-cost spay and neuter. These programs need to be taken advantage of.
Every person who is allowing this cat explosion to continue is responsible for those cats being “put to sleep.” It is time for the citizens of this city to make a change. Take responsibility. If you have those cats in your yard–get them fixed. If you are the neighbor of someone who has ferals in their yard or garage or under their porch–report them. By turning a blind eye YOU are adding to the senseless killing of all these animals–animals who did not ask to be on the streets in the first place, breeding over and over, having their kittens eaten by hawks, being hit by cars on the roads. It is time to take action.
If you would like more info on local trap, neuter and release programs, or if you would like to talk to someone about starting a TNR in your area, please feel free to contact these local groups:
And if you need information on low-cost vet care or controlling the cat population explosion in your yard, the FFDAS will be happy to hear from you.
Dearborn resident and business owner