HOLYOKE, MASSACHUSETTS — A small wooden box WHICH containS a bag of cat food and bowl for water has sparked outrage among residents of one of the city’s neighborhoods.
Tucked off Main Street behind a fence between William J. Dean Technical High School and the Connecticut river, the structure currently serves as a feeding station for a handful of the city’s feral cats.
After several complaints from homeowners throughout the neighborhood, city officials are considering a ban on this feral cat feeding station and another one in the city.
Ceasing to fill the food and water bowls every week would result in the neighborhood cats dying, stated Anna Zina, who is one of the women who takes care of the animals.
Zina is the operator of In Honey’s Memory, which is a no-kill cage-free shelter in Huntington. She takes in homeless and unwanted animals and specializes in young adult and older cats.
She also works to help keep the feral cat population down by operating a trap and neuter program in Western Massachusetts. Holyoke, she said, “is overrun by cats.”
“A colony that could have started off at 20 cats will dwindle off, not continue to repopulate if neutered,” Zina explained.
After operating the trap and neuter program for many years, she learned of two feeding stations for feral cats in Holyoke — one of which is located by Dean Tech, another at the boat marina. Both are on the property which is owned by the city.
The feeding stations were set up by a former resident of the neighborhood who has since moved away a few years ago. Zina said that she agreed to continue feeding the cats because they’ve become accustomed to the reliable food source.
“The only reason why they’re here is that these cats were already being fed.” Zina stated. “They’ve been taught to be fed for so many years. Without it, they’ll starve.”
However, two complaints about the animals have been lodged with the city Board of Health. They were filed by a husband and wife team who live on Main Street. The first was filed on March 16, the second on March 17.
The first complaint states that the feral cats are wandering onto their property and using their sandbox as a litter box. The second claims there are a large number of cats walking around their property and are being a nuisance to the neighborhood.
Less than a week after these complaints were made, the request to have the feeding station near Dean Tech removed was denied in a letter which was written by the city animal control officer.
City ordinance requires a permit be issued for a feeding station which serves more than four feral or homeless cats. Zina believes two cats are fed near Dean Tech and four at the Marina.
Whether the feeding stations will be allowed to continue operations will be the topic of discussion during the Board of Health’s next meeting on July 14 at 6 p.m.