City seeks public’s help in reducing feral, stray cat problem

Roaming cats in the city of Princeton have been seen on cold days coming out of storm sewer drains and sometimes have shown up at residences where they are unwanted.

Now the city is asking the public to help reduce the number of feral, or wild, cats. The city has also decided to purchase more live traps for use by the police and the public for catching the cats for impounding. Many of the cats that roam around a town or city are known as “community cats,” according to the Humane Society of the United States, which states that they are either feral or one-time pets who are stray, lost or abandoned.

The Humane Society defines a feral cat as one that is the offspring of a stray or feral cat and is not accustomed to human contact. It describes them as usually being fearful of being handled or adopted.City Administrator Mark Karnowski and Princeton City Council members discussed the problem at some length at its June 5 study session, which led to the council decision to buy more live traps. Karnowski explained that the city in the past month or so has received several calls from property owners concerned about an “apparent growing number” of these cats in a couple of residential areas of the city.

One area is a mobile home park on the city’s north end, and the other area is along Fourth Street South near the Rum River.“The callers are requesting that the city take care of the problem,” Karnowski told the council.

“The callers cite that the cats are taking up residence in their garage(s) and elsewhere on their property. They also have concerns about the possibility of cats having rabies. The city in the past has provided live traps to residents who are worried about the problem. Once caught, the cat has been taken to the Princeton Veterinary Clinic, where it has been held for a required five business days to give the cat owner a chance to reclaim it,” Karnowski noted.

He added that if the cat is a domestic type, the clinic is usually able to adopt the cat out to either a private party or an animal shelter. However, the feral cats are “usually so wild that they’re unadoptable,” Karnowski said.Karnowski continued that the clinic also has a concern about a feral cat bite causing an infection, and that it could happen if a child sees a “kitty” and tries to pet it.

Currently the veterinary clinic charges the city a flat impound fee of $60 per animal, and if it subsequently needs to euthanize the animal, there is no additional fee.The current system appears adequate, but the city has since been contacted by “another party who is suggesting the city instead institute a trap/neuter/release program,” in which a veterinarian would neuter or spay the cat and then release it back to the wild, Karnowski continued.Karnowski said he checked the vet clinic’s cost for that service, and with the additional rabies shot, it would be almost $120 per cat.

“But that still wouldn’t address the potential cat bite issues or the other issue of the number of songbirds that outside cats kill, or address the city’s prohibition of cats running at large,” Karnowski noted.

The Police Department used to have three live traps but is now down to one. Princeton Police Department Investigator Todd Frederick mentioned wear and tear on the live traps and how he had quite a tussle with a raccoon in one of them. Karnowski noted that if someone catches a cat and wants it taken to the city’s animal pound, they must first contact the Police Department to get the impounding authorized.

Otherwise the city is not going to pay for it, he said.The Police Department’s number during office hours is 763-389-4879. If it is after hours, the toll free 888-860-8250 number to dispatch is to be used.Council Member Vicki Hallin suggested the city invest in more live traps. The rest of the council agreed.

The council passed a motion to authorize the police to keep an inventory of five live traps, so that if one is damaged, stolen or lost, the police don’t have to come back to the council each time it needs to replace one.The council also agreed that it wants the public to help with the cat situation and that it can do so by borrowing one of the city’s live traps or using personal live traps. Karnowski noted that if someone is unable to take a caught cat to the city’s impound clinic after contacting police, the Police Department can handle that.
Mayor Paul Whitcomb indicated that catching cats to impound can be a sensitive issue. There is the possibility of catching a house cat that didn’t have a city tag on it, and the owner becomes upset, he explained. Whitcomb added that the city requires residents to get a license for their cats.

  • kitcatkitty

    Karnowski, how refreshingly sane and logical! Thank you. TNR does not address public health and welfare. The method is ineffective as a population reduction tool, is terrible for native wildlife, is a risk to public health, and is an infringement on the property rights of others. Not to mention inhumane for domestic cats and a continued nuisance issue. Good for the City of Princeton for making public health and welfare the priority!