They are aggressive, abundant and antisocial. And for reasons both economic and biological, feral cats are making themselves at home around Lodi.
Animal control is inundated with calls about the cats, and working to find a solution to the ongoing problem by encouraging people to either drop them off at the shelter or offer them a rebate on veterinary bills for fixing the cats. Fleas carried by feral cats living under Victor School recently caused forced students to be moved from several classrooms after the pests were found inside. They also reside in the city.
“They are all over town,” said officer Jennifer Bender, of the Lodi Animal Shelter. “They are more on the Eastside than anything.”
The Eastside is an economically depressed area of town, and many residents there are unable to afford to pay for medical costs for pets, so they get abandoned there, she said.
Feral cats, unlike domesticated ones, were born wild and have had limited contact with humans. The cats will hiss and swipe at people who attempt to get close, Bender said. Their numbers are increasing due to people abandoning their pets during a sour economy, and the cats naturally reproducing once on their own. A female cat can produce up to three litters per year. Each litter can have between two and eight kittens.
Fortunately, the feral cats aren’t making their homes in parks and nature areas around Lodi, said parks superintendent Steve Dutra.
Keeping trash cleaned and emptied regularly prevents the cats from gorging on a free meal, he said. The landscaping done by workers also keeps critters the cats like to snack on from gaining a strong foothold in the parks around town, Dutra said.
Century and Emerson parks are two examples of city parks where houses are right next to the area, but they aren’t having problems with feral cats due to the city’s maintenance efforts, he said.
However, people still do use the Lodi Lake nature preserve as a dumping ground for their unwanted pets such as rabbits and turtles, he said.
“People abandoning pets out there is always a concern,” he said.
Although the problem is a serious one, animal control is working to address the problem despite its strained budget. The Trap, Neuter and Return program is a combined effort of the Abandoned Cat Team, Animal Friends Connection and the Lodi Animal Shelter to address the outbreak of homeless cats.
The program works by offering a voucher to people who take the cat in to get spayed or neutered, and release it back into the wild. The Lodi Animal Shelter also accepts cats being dropped off directly at the complex.
Neutering the cats enables them to continue to live without the risk of adding to the population outburst, Bender said. Cats taken directly to the shelter will be held for several days, but can be euthanized if no one claims them after a period of time.
Residents who are caring for a stray cat by offering it food or an outside shelter should also bring it in to be neutered and released, she said.
While feral cats are not a good choice for house pets due to their aggressive and skittish nature, they can still be desirable, Bender said.
“A lot of growers will use them to control mice in their fields,” she said.
Contact reporter Jordan Guinn at jordang@ lodinews.com.