The residents of 79th Place in Middle Village have long been struggling to maintain the overpopulation of cats on their block. When nearly 40 feral cats and kittens began to call the block their home, residents were worried that if they did not act quickly, the number would soon multiply.
The solution seemed simple enough to Donna Dicesare, a concerned neighbor, who ironically, considers herself a dog person. She planned to trap the cats and spay/neuter them so they would not reproduce as quickly. While the answer seemed obvious, she didn’t know quite where to start so she summoned the help of Deneen Muller – the block’s self proclaimed cat lady.
Muller’s backyard is the ultimate hangout spot for the cats that roam 79th Place. For eight years Muller has fed and nursed the kitties, but even she began to feel overwhelmed with the fast growing population.
“All of a sudden I got kind of overrun,” said Muller. “I was realizing these cats were getting pregnant twice a year,” she added.
It wasn’t long until Dicesare rang her doorbell and the two began to lay out a plan for a TNR (trap/neuter/release) project.
On July 4th of this year, the two women and another concerned neighbor who had experience with capturing cats, began to set up caged traps in Muller’s backyard.
“That night we caught four cats automatically and the next day we got three more but, we also found about twenty kittens – some in my garage, some on the block, all over the place,” said Muller.
After discovering that close to 40 cats inhabited 79th Place, the two women took on a new full-time job.
“We knew nothing about trapping,” said Muller. “I didn’t know how to open the cages… I didn’t know what to do.”
Still determined to help the felines, they worked long and hard to master the art of trapping—even taking a seminar to become certified trappers. To date they have spayed/neutered 15 adult cats and four kittens. Each of the cats were tested for FIV (an AIDS-like syndrome) and Feline Luekemia, were vaccinated, ear-tipped and treated for fleas and ear mites. In addition to keeping the cats healthy, experts say fixed cats tend to be calmer and less likely to cause any noise disturbances throughout the neighborhood.
“There’s no feeling like it,” said Muller. “Knowing that that these cats have a place to go where they are not going to get hurt, knowing that we are helping them, it’s great,” she added.
Although their vision was beginning to unfold, Dicesare said the project was becoming financially harder to sustain. While they had collected some donations from neighbors, most of the project had been paid for out of pocket. The cost of neutering/spaying and testing a cat is approximately $45 at the ASPCA on Cooper Avenue.
In an effort to raise money for their cause, Dicesare organized a fundraiser at Danny Boy’s, a local pub-style restaurant in Middle Village.
Over a dozen neighbors came out to the event to show support and help raise money for the furry friends of 79th Place. Erin Mcgrath, a neighbor close to the cause, said she came out to the event because she began noticing the problem herself and wanted to take action.
“I just wanted to help out so I started to buy food and supplies for them. I eventually took some in and adopted them all out so they have good homes,” she said. Mcgrath, however, did not put all the kittens up for adoption – she admits she could not resist the urge of keeping one of the kittens herself – a kitten she named Apollo.
Muller said she is happy that her neighbors have been supportive.
“All in all, my block has been really nice,” she said. “If it’s a community thing, it’s much easier,” she added. The fundraiser echoed the support, with neighbors contributing nearly $1000 to the cause.
By Natalia Kozikowska