Published: Saturday, June 13, 2009
By LAURÉN ABDEL-RAZZAQ
The feral cats living in the garage of Jean Priest’s Pontiac home have created tension between her and her neighbor, Nanci Shay, for years, but they hope a solution is coming soon.
Jean Priest and her husband, Fred, started feeding the cats and soon more were born, adding to the number living in her garage. Some of the kittens are sick and neither she nor Shay has the money to get the kittens the treatment they need.
Volunteers from Animal Care Network, the only Pontiac organization that will trap and remove feral cats in the city, were expected to begin trapping the cats Friday.
Pam Porteous, the organization’s director, said the group has a monumental task. She and nine volunteers receive calls to pick up cats roaming the city. There was a delay when Shay contacted the organization because they had 43 stops to make before they could get to Priest’s house.
“I wish we could get everything done when people want us to, but we are a volunteer-based program,” said Porteous.
She said the two volunteers have only three live traps to work with — which means they can only collect a small number of cats at a time.
The sheer number of feral and stray cats living in Pontiac makes it very difficult for the group to put a dent in the overpopulation problem.
“We wish we could get everywhere but this is a problem all over Pontiac,” Porteous said. “There are sick and dying cats all over the city.”
Making matters worse is that cats can reproduce at an alarming rate, said Sgt. Joanie Toole, an administrative supervisor at Oakland County Animal Control.
“The Humane Society once released an ad that said two breeding (cats) over 10 years have the potential for 80 million offspring,” she said.
This is something Jean Priest has experienced first-hand with the cats in her garage. Originally from England, Priest said she is not used to seeing so many stray cats producing so many feral kittens.
She said she decided to let the cats come into her garage in the winter because she felt there was no other humane solution available.
“Nobody would take them, so my husband made a box for them in the garage,” Priest said.
Priest had taken some of the sick cats that they could catch to the Oakland Veterinary Referral Services clinic for medication and tests. On one occasion she spent $403 in medical costs, only to learn that the cat had to be put down — a cost the retiree says she and her husband cannot afford. She also had to pay for her own medical bill when one of the cats bit her and she had to go to the hospital for treatment.
Feeding the cats is another added expenditure the Priests have taken on to care for the felines living in their garage.
“We’ve done the best that we could under the circumstances,” Priest said. “Nobody wants them.”