HOUSTON — It isn’t obvious at first glance, but peer into the undergrowth of a vacant Montrose lot and you can see them quietly blending in with their surroundings.
"They’re multiplying like mad," said Doug Hawk, who has lived here for six years. "It’s really crazy."
Residents say the 2700 block of Crocker has gone to the cats. Feral cats.
"They’re just all over the place," said Michael Avila. "Every once in a while you’ll see one or two take a hit from a car. It’s unfortunate."
For Abby Ludens, who has two cats of her own, it has become more than just a nuisance.
"We’ve got 12-foot fences, and the feral cats can actually get into our yard," said Ludens. "They get in and have cat fights with our cats. I’ve actually had to make a couple of emergency vet trips."
Ludens said part of the problem is the fact that someone sets out food and water for the cats daily.
"The animals aren’t being fed by someone who lives here," she said. "The person comes and feeds them and then leaves the problem to the neighborhood."
It may be an act of compassion, but it’s also illegal to feed feral cats in Houston, unless you’re taking part in the city’s Trap, Neuter and Return program. Cats are very territorial, and Animal Control says it’s more cost-effective to sterilize the cats and return them to their colonies, than it is to round them up and euthanize them.
"So now you’ve got a completely sterile colony that won’t be reproducing," explained BARC spokesperson Chris Newport. "They keep other cats from coming into a neighborhood and the population ultimately declines."
It’s a problem that isn’t limited to Montrose. It’s estimated there are a million feral cats in Houston. The city says fixing the problem begins with fixing the cats.
To find out more about taking part in the city’s Trap, Neuter and Return program call 713 229-7300 or go to houstonbarc.com.