Tag: New Jersey

One Unverified Claim Of An Aggressive Stray Prompted A New Jersey Town’s Plan To Trap And Kill Cats

The recent saga of a New Jersey town’s ill-advised plan to “destroy” feral cats highlights almost everything wrong with local government.

First, a notice went out from the northern New Jersey town of Matawan, informing residents that feral cats had become a “nuisance” and their presence posed a danger to “the welfare and safety of both the community and the cats.” The town, in cooperation with the police and SPCA, the notice said, would begin trapping stray, feral and free-roaming felines in November, and any cat not claimed after seven days would be “destroyed.”

The backlash was loud and immediate, and it took the Monmouth County SPCA by surprise.

After receiving angry complaints, the local SPCA posted a notice on Facebook blasting the “outlandish and outrageous campaign.” The SPCA’s leaders said they hadn’t been consulted and hadn’t approved of the policy, blaming the Matawan Animal Welfare Committee, a three-person group comprised of the town’s business administrator, Scott Carew, town councilwoman Melanie Wang and an animal control officer.

“We are completely outraged and disheartened that our organization has been attached to this archaic campaign to euthanize feral cats, when there are so many other successful, humane alternatives,” the Monmouth County SPCA wrote in its statement.

Carew backpedaled in the fallout, claiming the notice was a well-intentioned way of informing people who live in Matawan to keep their cats inside and stop feeding strays and ferals.

“By no means was the goal of the trapping efforts to destroy trapped cats,” Carew told NJ.com. “That said, since there was the chance that cats would be trapped and brought to the shelter, we wanted to alert cat owners whose cats are allowed to roam outside.”

But Carew also said he and the other were “obligated to address the complaint,” and said the town would have to enact “a resumption of trapping efforts” if it received more complaints about the cats. According to a statement by the Matawan police department, in a meeting between local leaders and people concerned about cats in one neighborhood, it was a single complaint about a possibly aggressive feral cat that prompted the plan.

That’s it. That’s all it took, in the eyes of local government officials, to justify a policy of trapping and killing sentient, human-habituated innocent animals, a group that includes free-roaming pets, former pets, strays and true ferals. A single, unverified complaint of a potentially “aggressive” cat, with no further detail about what the word aggressive means in that context, no information about what the cat supposedly did, or even confirmation that the cat was a feral and not a stray or a wandering pet.

When the dust cleared from all the finger-pointing, Carew said his committee should have informed the SPCA of its plans, and police brushed off responsibility by saying they “assumed” the notice was drafted with the cooperation and intent of the SPCA and other local animal welfare groups.

Cat trap
A cat caught during a trap, neuter, return program, which reduces feral/stray populations in the long term without the cruelty of culling. Credit: Pixabay

Local government leadership and incompetence has become a big problem. With the death of newspapers, particularly regional dailies that employed trained journalists, there are entire swaths of the country no longer served by local government watchdogs who have the time, skills and resources to monitor local officials and inform the public.

We’re fortunate that NJ Advanced Media, an online portal for content from more than a dozen New Jersey local newspapers, has found a way to exist as a viable business serving millions of readers throughout its home state. Without it, it’s doubtful the story would have surfaced anywhere.

Lots of people think local government is small potatoes, but the truth is that local officials are responsible for enormous budgets and wield considerable power. The decisions they make very likely have more impact on our lives than decisions made in the halls of congress, even if it’s the latter that gets people’s blood boiling.

In this case we have a meeting conducted in secret, without public notice, that would have determined the fate of an unknown number of animals. We have anonymous, nebulous complaints and allegations about “nuisances.” What constitutes a nuisance? How many cats are involved? Are the cats part of managed colonies and cared for by people who trap and neuter them? None of those questions were answered.

Additionally, instead of taking intermediary steps or using widely available resources — the “other successful, humane alternatives” the SPCA referenced, from the willing cooperation of local shelters to the free toolkit created by the authors of the incredible D.C. Cat Count — the local officials came up with their own ill-advised plan to trap and kill cats.

Outrage by animal lovers and the SPCA were enough to make sure a plan like this was quickly discarded this time around, but you have to wonder how many other places this kind of thing might be happening without so much as a blurb about it.

Frankie Sad Eyes Has Been Adopted!

Every once in a while a cat’s story will tug at the heartstrings, and while Bud and I are mostly impervious to that sort of thing (being so manly that we dominate our emotions, obviously), we couldn’t help but become invested in the story of Frankie Sad Eyes.

The handsome 11-year-old was surrendered by his human at an age when he should have been kicking back and telling kittens what it was like Back In His Day, and his hooded blue peepers seemed to reflect his sadness at losing everything he’d known.

In my head, I imagined Frankie and Buddy teaming up, kind of a bad cop/bad cop duo who would keep the neighborhood cats on their toes and extort treats from them.

“We don’t like it when cats don’t pay their protection yums, do we, Buddy?”

“No we don’t, Frankie.”

“It would be a shame if anything were to happen to this spiffy cat condo, wouldn’t it, Buddy?”

“That’s right, Frankie. A real shame indeed.”

Alas, Frankie doesn’t get along with other cats and Bud is a bit of a jerk when he wants to be, so it could never happen. There can be only one king here.

Instead we were content to follow Frankie’s progress from afar, with the staff at Tabby’s Place in Ringoes, NJ, providing regular updates on his health and his interactions with other cats. The latter usually involved Frankie having to “educate” his peers with a stiff paw, but also some positive exchanges as well.

Still, it was clear that Frankie needed to be the only cat in his own kingdom, and staff at Tabby’s Place were able to match the mercurial moggie with a human who will dutifully attend to his needs, make sure his new realm isn’t sullied by the presence of other cats, and provide a chill environment suited to a senior cat. At heart there’s no doubt Frankie’s a good boy. He just needs his space.

Tabby’s Place said farewell to Frankie with this video of his pre-departure “victory lap,” and it was clear from the send-off he received that he’d touched a lot of hearts during his stay, even if he did smack a lot of cats too.

Good luck, dear Frankie, and take it easy on your new human, will ya? We have no doubt she’ll dote on you like the king you are.

Frankie Sad Eyes Needs A Home

Even though I am the honored servant to the king, His Grace Buddy I, I am not immune to adoptable cats who tug at the heartstrings.

Frankie Sad Eyes is one of those cats. Just look at those eyes!

The little guy is 13 years old, and at an age when he should be enjoying a quiet, nap- and treat-filled life as the senior statesman among cats, he’s been surrendered by his people and has landed in a shelter.

Thankfully that shelter is Tabby’s Place, a no-kill, no-cage sanctuary in New Jersey that has a reputation for doing right by its cats. Still, any feline would be shocked by the experience of losing his or her family and ending up in a strange place with unfamiliar people and cats.

Frankie Sad Eyes
Frankie looks sad, and undoubtedly he’s finding it difficult adjusting to life in a sanctuary, but staff at Tabby’s Place say he’s a “joyful” cat with a zest for life.

Alas, I can’t adopt Frankie. Like the King himself, he’s not particularly keen on sharing his throne, so there can be no future where Buddy and Frankie are, well, buddies.

But Frankie, who is described as “a zesty, exuberant sweetheart” who still has kitten-like energy, is looking for a home where he can establish his new and forever kingdom, with a human or humans who will dote on him and see to his every need.

Visit Tabby’s Place to view their adoptable cats, make a donation or just brighten your day.

Meet Starlin The Good Girl

Cat name: Starlin

Cat’s age: 10

Cat’s human servant: Barreleh from Cape May

Starlin’s origin story:

Starlin, aka The Star Baby, “began life in a friend’s backyard,” according to her human, Barreleh.

“At the time, I was a Philly PAWS (Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society) volunteer, and I was pretty sure I could get that tiny gray kitten into one of the PAWS shelters,” Barreleh recalled. “[I] lent my friend a humane trap, and told her to call me when the kitten was in it.”

Barreleh had barely left before she got the call and turned around.

“I returned to pick up the kitten, and took her into the room in my home where all foundlings spend their time until they’re ready to either be adopted out, or join the furmily,” she said. “As soon as I got her out of the carrier, she WIGGED OUT, and spent the next few weeks under the furniture. Every time I came in the room to feed her and do litter duty, the second she heard the door open, under the furniture she went.”

Barreleh knew only a gentle approach was going to cut it with the skittish kitten, so she sat on the other side of the closed door and began talking to Starlin in calming tones: “Sweet nothings, mostly,” she said.

Giving the scared little one some space paid off, as did the soft-spoken reassurances.

“I could hear her purring on the other side of the door,” Barreleh said.

A week later, Barreleh was at home when her husband called her upstairs. The previously fearful kitten was sitting on his lap. That’s when the couple decided to keep her and named her Starlin.

The tiny kitten grew up to be a petite cat, living in Philadelphia with her humans and her four feline siblings, including “The Looney Toon Brothers,” Ivy Spivington and Lucinda.

Five years ago, the family packed up and was ready to move to Cape May, New Jersey. They awoke early to corral the cats, believing the easygoing Starlin would be the easiest to handle. Things were going smooth, with the cats — “even the outdoor stray/feral cat I had been feeding, and couldn’t bear to leave behind” — getting into their carriers generally without complaint.

Not Starlin.

The next hour played out like a slapstick comedy, with Starlin leading Barreleh and her husband on a chase up and down the stairs and around the house.

“Finally one of us was able to grab her, kicking and howling like a banshee, and somehow got her into the cat carrier,” Barreleh said. “From there, there was not a peep out of her for the whole 2-hour trip. When she finally exited the carrier, she morphed back to being her adorable self.”

Starlin’s favorite things are her beat-up old wand toy, catnip parties, chasing the infamous red dot, cuddling with her humans — and eating eggs.

“She loves, loves, loves eggs,” Barreleh said.

Little Starlin is about to turn 10, but she’s almost as active as a kitten when it comes to play time.

“She is sooooooooo sweet, and sooooooooooo cuddly, and still loves to chase the little red dot,” Barreleh said. “And when I sing out ‘Where’s my baby?’ she comes running.”

We profile our readers’ cats regularly. Would you like to see your cat featured here? Send us a message via our contact page and tell us all about your furball. Previous featured cats: Meet Tux (4/21/2021), Meet Bowie (4/12/2021)

 

Free Clinic Honors Veterinary Nurse Who Died Trying To Help A Cat

Kaitlyn O’Hara was just doing what she always did on the night of Feb. 3, trying to help a cat who was injured and all alone after a snowstorm had pummeled the northeast with heavy snows.

O’Hara had stopped her car on the shoulder of a state route in Cherry Hill, NJ, and was trying to coax the cat to come out of hiding when she was hit by another car and killed. The driver, a 24-year-old man, hasn’t been charged in the collision and there’s no indication he was impaired.

O’Hara, who was known as a “cat whisperer” for her calming influence on cats — as well as her years of work fostering shelter cats and raising orphaned bottle babies — was just 27 years old. Her family and friends, who describe her as a woman with a bubbly, outgoing personality and a relentless dedication to animals, spent her life helping cats — and that’s how they want her to be remembered.

“She took on so many animals over the years that no one else would — bottle babies, old grumpy kitties like Eloise whom she adored (and the feeling was mutual), kittens with broken legs, the defeated and sickly — but her favorite and possibly best work was with the shy, timid and feral,” a staffer with New Jersey’s Randall’s Rescue wrote. “She adored the feral babies from our orchard project and was truly our kitty whisperer.”

Randall's Rescue: Kaitlyn O'Hara
O’Hara with one of the many cats she’s helped over the years.

Now two local animal welfare organizations want to honor her memory:

On May 23, Randall’s Rescue of Mount Laurel, an animal rescue organization where O’Hara was a longtime volunteer, and HousePaws, a veterinary service in New Jersey and Bucks County where O’Hara had worked, are cohosting a free clinic for area rescues to bring in feral felines for spay/neuter services. They’ll also be administering feline AIDS and leukemia tests and looking for foster homes where some animals can be socialized for adoption. The organizers would like the event — which they have christened Kaitlyn’s Mitten Mission, a play on O’Hara’s nickname for cats and kittens — to become an annual occurrence.

If you want to know more or donate to the cause, visit Randall’s Rescue on Facebook or make a donation directly to the rescue here.