Feral felines spur neighborhood catfight

Residents of a small, dead-end street in Central JP are facing off over a colony of feral cats.

Mark David Chesak and Suzanne Sobert, a married couple living on Greenley Place, have cared for the eight cats for years—even providing small huts for them to live in.

A neighbor the City wouldn’t identify filed an official complaint. Mike Stone, another neighbor, did not file a complaint, but told the Gazette the cats are out of control, scratching his car and using his crop-growing garden as a litter box.

Now City inspectors have cited the cat-lovers, who have agreed to find good homes for them. But inspectors have sympathy for the couple’s feline favors.

“People who do this love what they do. There’s compassion about it,” said John Meaney, assistant commissioner of the City’s Inspectional Services Department, who checked out the situation last month.

Chesak and Sobert told the Gazette they started caring for the cats after a bad experience at the JP-based MSPCA, where the organization euthanized kittens within days of their being dropped off.

A Gazette request for comment from the MSPCA was not immediately returned.

Chesak and Sobert feed the cats; provide them with winter shelter in the shape of small huts; and have them vaccinated and neutered or spayed.

“Once we started doing that, the cats decided to stick around,” Chesak told the Gazette.

And on it went for seven years, until Stone took more serious issue.

Stone said the cats come into his yard because Chesak and Sobert manage the cats in a parking lot, leaving the cats nowhere to urinate or defecate. Chesak and Sobert themselves live in an upstairs apartment and keep a container garden that is not molested by the cats, Stone said.

“I come in contact with and smell cat feces every time I weed my garden beds or remove leaves from the bed,” Stone said.

Stone also said he has observed raccoons and opossums feeding from the cat food bowls that are left out overnight, and that his dog has also been treated for parasites more than once due to eating cat feces in his own yard. There have also been fights between the dog and the cats, he said.

“The problems began when they started leaving cat food out on the sidewalk and in the lot in the neighborhood, including overnight, unmonitored. That attracted toms and other feral cats to the neighborhood, and with free and unlimited food, they of course chose to stay,” Stone said.

In response to the complaints, Meaney visited Greenley Place a visit last month. Feeding and caring for feral cats is legal, he said, within certain boundaries.

“We’re OK with this kind of thing as long as food isn’t left out unattended and as long as the [cat] housing is clean and sanitary,” he told the Gazette. “As long as it’s not affecting the properties around you.”

Meaney was joined by staff from the City’s Animal Control department and the Animal Rescue League on that visit, which raised hackles around the neighborhood. Chesak and Sobert were afraid the group was showing up to trap and take away all the cats, and invited over a dozen friends to be present for support.

“Most neighbors salute and support Mark and Suzanne in their efforts to care for and foster the stray cats in our neighborhood,” neighbor Scott Lesniewski told the Gazette, adding that “this is by no means a ‘crazy cat person’ situation, but rather, two kind, sane neighbors trying to remedy cats being destroyed by shelters.”

Inspectors cited the couple for leaving out food and for failing to clean up the cats’ feces.

“We did find unattended feed and we offered help in homing the cats to keep numbers down so they won’t impact the neighbors,” Meaney said.

“We understand that people are concerned about other animals coming in and eating the cat food,” Chesak said.

Chesak and Sobert also promised the City that they would redouble efforts to find indoor homes for the cats.

“We’re going to stay in touch over the next few week to see if there’s a reduction or maintenance” in the colony, Meaney added. ISD will be back in mid-October for a 30-day visit to check on the status of unattended feed and feces clean-up.

CLARIFICATION: The above story has been edited to clarify the fact Stone told the Gazette he was not the neighbor who contacted ISD,

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