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Posted on Sat, Jul 27, 2013 : 5:58 a.m.

Ypsilanti Township sees drastic reduction in feral cat population after pilot program

By Tom Perkins

Ypsilanti Township is labeling a creative solution to controlling its booming feral cat population a success.

In March, the township began a “Trap-Neuter-Return” pilot program in six neighborhoods that has reduced the number of orphaned feral kittens there by 83 percent from 2012.


A "community cat" with a tipped ear to signify it has been sterilized and treated for disease.

Photo Courtesy of the Humane Society of Huron Valley.

"This is a very good start on a very difficult endeavor," said Trustee Mike Martin. "The cats haven't been sterilized or spayed or neutered for so long that it will take a while get to where we can start really limiting feral cat reproduction."

Officials counted 163 orphaned kittens in the test areas in 2012 but only 28 in 2013.

The program, which is a partnership between the Humane Society of Huron Valley, the township and volunteers, also exceeded the goal of 130 sterilizations by 17 spay/neuters.


"Community cat" colonies have been placed around neighborhoods in Ypsilanti Township. One is near Parkside Street and South Ford Boulevard, though the exact location is kept secret.

Tom Perkins | For

Martin said the program will be continued, though he isn't sure on what level or how it would be funded. More information might be available when Humane Society representatives speak about the results to the Board of Trustees at its next regular meeting.

The $10,000 effort involves building shelters that attracted feral cats, which were then live-trapped and brought to the Humane Society. Volunteers care for the shelter, and maintain food and water supplies.

The Humane Society next sterilizes the cats, treats them for disease and releases each one back into the colony where they were found. Their ears are tipped so officials know the cat has been treated.

Feral cats — or “community cats,” as the HSHV refers to a broader population of outdoor, wild cats averse to human contact — have particularly been an issue in Ypsilanti Township. On more than one occasion, township ordinance officers have encountered vacant homes sheltering up to 60 cats.

Cats are known to have up to three litters annually.

Martin highlighted that the program limits cats' ability to reproduce, so the population will only slowly decline as cats die of natural causes.

"Until we can get the population under control we’re going to have to establish colonies to ensure their health and safety, the health and safety of other animals that come in contact with the cats and prevent them from becoming a public nuisance," Martin said.

In each neighborhood, volunteer “caretakers” work with Humane Society staff to develop community cat “TNR colonies.” Brittany Keene, the HSHV’s community cat coordinator, previously explained the colonies will be in wooded, secluded areas adjacent to identified neighborhoods.

The colonies are in the West Willow neighborhood; the Greene Farms and Millpoint subdivisions; near Merritt Road and Hitchingham; in several locations in south Ford Lake neighborhoods; at Big Pine Drive and Huron River Drive; in the neighborhood bordered by Holmes, Prospect and Clark Roads; near Ecorse Road and South Ford Boulevard; and in the Elmcrest neighborhood.

Officials try to keep the exact location secret because residents have been known to attack and kill feral cats.

Each colony will include a shelter similar to a dog house with entrances that are too small for predators. Caretakers will provide food in the shelter and the relative isolation and will pull the neighborhoods’ community cats away from other areas where they may be living inside the neighborhood.

The problems associated with community cats in a neighborhood don’t threaten humans’ safety but the yowling, spraying and other similar behaviors can be a nuisance

Tom Perkins is a freelance reporter. Contact the news desk at


Paul Taylor

Sat, Jul 27, 2013 : 11:37 p.m.

There should be a new tag for articles: "misleading headline"


Sat, Jul 27, 2013 : 11:54 p.m.

You can cross-reference that with "no editorial oversight whatsoever".


Sat, Jul 27, 2013 : 8:48 p.m.

I've seen cat populations balloon when people feed them only to watch the population dwindle off when the ( feral cat feeders) sell their home and move away. All it takes is one person to start feeding a few ( it's not my cat ) feral cats and the population balloons again. I hope this program works out for these cats, but my advice is to leave wild cats alone. The (cycle )rise and fall of predator/prey population is always at work in nature.


Sat, Jul 27, 2013 : 7:17 p.m.

This program works and thank God for the Humane Society's involvement in our area. I've been taking care of a feral cat population for about 20 years now. You take one female cat and if she has the usual 3 litters that she can have in a season you can end up with about 15 kittens from one season as cats usually have about 5-6 per litter. Over a short period of time you can have quite a large population. Especially as the kittens mature and begin breeding. I live in an area that is heavy with rental properties and I believe most of the cats that I've come to care for were left behind when tenants moved. I had one property next door that sat empty off and on for several years. The cats were multiplying over there taking shelter in the shed and under the patio porch and under scrap debris the owner/landlord had left piled up in the back yard. At first I took it upon myself, using my own money to have them altered, providing outdoor shelter (dog houses), food and water year round. Eventually I signed up with the Humane Society as one of their caretakers. I still pay for the food and provide shelter but Humane Society does the spay and neutering for me for free but I haven't had any new cats or kittens to spay or neuter in about 5 years because there haven't been any. The program works. Maybe not for the people that would like to see all the outdoor cats removed, killed or kept indoors. Once the cats are spayed and neutered they stop producing offspring and the population begins to dwindle. My concern with this new version of the program being set up in wooded areas is that I fear for the cats safety. Children and adults can be mean and hurtful and if they know where these cats are located they can prey on them. I've seen it with people in my neighborhood with the feral cats I care for. They don't like the cats so they try to poison them, sick dogs on them, shoot BBs at them, etc.


Sat, Jul 27, 2013 : 5:18 p.m.

They have to save the cat village in order to destroy it, if I'm getting the drift, a strategic approach that echoes with warped Vietnam memories. But even in the unlikely event sterilization reaches 100 percent, these last-generation coddled cats can be expected to linger on for more than a decade. There is no exit strategy, except praying for an outbreak of plague bacilli.


Sat, Jul 27, 2013 : 4:08 p.m.

Oops, they cut me off. So a larger sample is definitely needed before HSHV can make the claim of TN(V)R success.


Sat, Jul 27, 2013 : 4:03 p.m.

Wow! Where do you start? Let's start with, and their misleading headline. Talk about inaccurate reporting! Even HSHV admits that they were talking about a small, kittens-only count, not a "drastic reduction in feral cat population." They did not report a significant, or even measurable, reduction in overall feral cat population. The HSHV is certainly an important and valuable part of our community, and I support them with my donations. And their "every animal is sacred" outlook on the world is understandable, misguided though it often is. And they are consistently way off base when it comes to feral cats. "Community Cats," indeed! No amount of Madison-Ave whitewashing makes those cats anything but feral cats. The use of such lame Newspeak underscores the weakness of their position. ALL cats that are allowed outdoors unleashed play a damaging role as members of the world's Top 100 Invasive Species. And TN(V)R has been shown to be an ineffective method for reducing feral cat populations. So, although HSHV's reported numbers are fabulous, it is important to note a few things: 1, HSHV is inflating the positive appearance of their numbers. They say that they have "reduced the number of orphaned feral cats there by 83 percent from 2012." But they are talking only about a small number of KITTENS counted, not the overall population –– 28 kittens, down from 163 (and that's actually a little less than 83%!) 2, That is a very small, and therefore statistically-unreliable sample. That fact is underscored by HSHV's own statement that, "On more than one occasion, township ordinance officers have encountered vacant homes sheltering up to 60 cats." If one house alone can hold a number equal to more than one-third of their entire sample population, then their sample is way to small to tell us anything at all. 3, The numbers in that small, kittens-only sample do not jibe with overall statistics nationwide and worldwide. So a larger sample is definitel

Rork Kuick

Sat, Jul 27, 2013 : 6:34 p.m.

"They did not report a significant, or even measurable, reduction in overall feral cat population." Try: "They did not report a reduction in the feral cat population." Save the fancy words for when there's data.


Sat, Jul 27, 2013 : 4:26 p.m.

The headline is totally unsupported by the article. Did someone actually say that?


Sat, Jul 27, 2013 : 2:37 p.m.

Now if we could only get more people to spay/neuter their kitties. Really, Greene Farms?


Sat, Jul 27, 2013 : 1:37 p.m.

Glad to see that it's helping, but I'd say "drastic reduction in feral cat population" is overplaying it a bit. Well, a lot.


Sat, Jul 27, 2013 : 4:25 p.m.

I'm fine with the program and the progress - it's the overreaching and inaccurate headline I have a problem with.


Sat, Jul 27, 2013 : 2:31 p.m.

Okay, Brad, but would you agree that "163 orphaned kittens in the test areas in 2012 but only 28 in 2013" is at the very least promising?


Sat, Jul 27, 2013 : 2:03 p.m.

And I bet neither HSHV or other officials even said that.

Christy Sargent Anderson

Sat, Jul 27, 2013 : 1:16 p.m.

Wow, this is an amazingly awesome program. Thank you so much for being proactive and positive in attending to the feral cat population!! Way to go!

Rork Kuick

Sat, Jul 27, 2013 : 12:50 p.m.

The death of wildlife and cat droppings in your gardens can also be a nuisance. PS: #cats vs. time is what every reader wants I think. Anyone know about that?


Sat, Jul 27, 2013 : 9:47 p.m.

It's not unheard of for an adult feral to become socialized. More likely was that the cat was not feral but stray, i.e., formerly-owned and now homeless. There's no way to tell by looking.


Sat, Jul 27, 2013 : 3:04 p.m.

JCK...was one a kitten ? because as far as I know once a feral cat gets to a certain age they can't be domesticated.If anyone wants to thumbs down me could you please at least correct me.


Sat, Jul 27, 2013 : 2:35 p.m.

JCK: Bless you for your compassion.


Sat, Jul 27, 2013 : 1:31 p.m.

Part of the program is that there are volunteers who feed the cats and make sure they have adequate shelters. Please see the blue link under the words 'pilot program'. We had two feral cats living around us about 10 years ago. One was very ill and we took it to the humane society to be euthanized. The other was spayed and is now a loving cat in our home.


Sat, Jul 27, 2013 : 12:06 p.m.

Feral cats eat feral rodents.


Sat, Jul 27, 2013 : 9:19 p.m.

not nearly a many as beneficial wild creatures!

Nicholas Urfe

Sat, Jul 27, 2013 : 4:18 p.m.

They eat very few rodents. The rodents reproduce much more quickly.


Sat, Jul 27, 2013 : 2:21 p.m.

Barzoom...a feral animal is a wild domesticated animal.So rodents don't fit into that category


Sat, Jul 27, 2013 : 11:52 a.m.

If population decline will be slow and not easy to measure for a long time, how did we get the 83% reduction since 2012 figure? That seems VERY fast!


Sat, Jul 27, 2013 : 2:05 p.m.

Ah, kittens only, I see. Thanks for the clarification (which I would have understood if I'd read more closely).

Hugh Giariola

Sat, Jul 27, 2013 : 12:09 p.m.

"Officials counted 163 orphaned kittens in the test areas in 2012 but only 28 in 2013." I believe it's the number of kittens present.


Sat, Jul 27, 2013 : 11:15 a.m.

I've got the guideline thing down now.I've noticed that anytime Tom does a article many comments no matter innocent they are they get deleted.I'll just stop commenting on any article he write.Chow


Sat, Jul 27, 2013 : 6:56 p.m.

What I've seen is that Tom's articles attract a disproportionate number of malcontents. I have flagged a quite few comments myself.

Nicholas Urfe

Sat, Jul 27, 2013 : 4:17 p.m.

I have noticed the same thing about the heavy-handed moderation of Tom's articles.


Sat, Jul 27, 2013 : 1:55 p.m.

"Chow"....? Cat chow?


Sat, Jul 27, 2013 : 1:38 p.m.

Just the usual "weekend moderation" effects.