Oneida committee tries to sink claws into effort to reduce feral cat issue

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ONEIDA — An unruly feral cat population in the city has long had some residents, and officials, howling for a solution. Shortly after the city government failed to come to a solution for the feral/stray cat problem in 2020, a branch of volunteers banded together to strategize, fundraise, and problem solve.

The Community Cats Committee (CCC), a sub-committee of the Oneida Improvement Committee (OIC), has been working since March 2021 to tame the pesky feline issue that many say is both a public nuisance and even a safety hazard.

Margaret Milman-Barris, OIC board member and member of the CCC, says that finding a humane way to manage the feral cat population is the core mission of the CCC.

Last fall, the team began its Trap-Neuter-Release (TNR) program within the city, resulting in five adult cats caught and nine kittens rescued. Two of the adults were found to be already spayed/neutered. The other three underwent the sterilizing procedure. One of the adults was returned to its owner, she said. The kittens were taken to Finland’s Fosters in Canastota.

The committee is modeling their TNR program based off the successes of others in the country, Milman-Barris shared.

Being respectful to both the cats and the people who may care about them is important to the CCC. Property owners are always contacted prior to trapping an animal, Milman-Barris explained, for several reasons. While many of the outdoor cats don’t belong to anyone, some residents have taken it upon themselves to make sure they are fed and healthy.

It’s also important to make sure the CCC isn’t trapping someone’s pet.

“We trap them, we take them to a veterinarian and have the spay or neuter done, and then we return them to the same location,” Milman-Barris explained. The cats are also vaccinated for rabies during the process.

Because the cats are returned, seeing fewer cats around is going to take awhile. “We recognize that reducing the feral cat population is really, it’s not something you can do overnight. It’s a longterm thing,” she remarked. Right now it’s about preventing future cats, she said. To help support this mission, “We also want to start up doing some community education about the importance of neutering and spaying,” Milman-Barris added.

As a non-profit, the CCC often receives a discounted rate for spaying and neuterings with local vets, the committee member shared. The city has also relieved some expenses by paying off a few of the veterinary procedures, she continued.

Several residents have taken it upon themselves to tend to the feral cat population, including Ron Demauro, who said he’s been dealing with the city’s feral cats for over two years. Previously, he worked with the CNY Cat Coalition to tackle the issue. After learning about the Community Cats Committee, he said he plans to attend an a meeting to see how he can help.

Volunteers are gearing up for their next round of TNR this spring, Milman-Barris said. To help keep the CCC moving, anyone is welcome to inquire about volunteering. Monetary support can be donated to the OIC directly via their website. Support helps cover vet and equipment expenses. Email the OIC at info@improveoneida.com or message the CCC on Facebook for information on upcoming meetings.

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