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City Council asked to clarify feral cat policy
Cat lover told to stop feeding feral cats at Smyrna Park
City officials say that paper plates and plastic dishes used to feed feral cats end up being litter at Smyrna Park. The cats are fed by Karen Mosser, a local cat rescuer. City officials dont really want the cats there since they cause problems.

A Ceres resident who is passionate about the humane treatment of feral cats in Ceres and Stanislaus County spoke to the Ceres City Council on Feb. 11, seeking clarification about the city's policy toward pet population control efforts.

Karen Mosser pointed out that when Delinda Moore was mayor, the Ceres City Council endorsed the Trap-Neuter-Release (TNR) program as a humane method to reduce the cat population in Ceres. Mosser and her group often will trap cats and transport them to the Thomas Mayfield Regional Animal Services Facility on Crows Landing Road to have them spayed or neutered and released back to their environment. The shelter provides the service to any resident of the county who brings in feral cats.

While Mosser is licensed to take care of feral cat colonies, the city of Ceres is dealing with issues of a colony of three feral cats in Smyrna Park. According to Mosser the cats have been residing in the park for about six years now, a remnant of about 10 cats which were taken away, sterilized and adopted out. The three remaining cats, said Mosser, were spayed and neutered before being returned them to the park. As a sign they have either been neutered or sterilized, the cats have had their ears notched for quick identification.

The city of Ceres does not, however, appreciate the problems caused by the park cats and admonished those who are caring for them. City officials plan to into having them relocated. Deputy Police Chief Mike Borges said that city workers have collected enough cat feces to fill one and a half 50-gallon drums and that some cats are making their way inside city equipment and spraying them with the offensive odor. Adding to the problem is those who are feeding the cats are leaving food on paper plates and the plates are adding to the park's trash. Borges also noted that some feeders are pulling up the chain link fencing around the park corporation yard to stuff food underneath.

On Wednesday, Feb. 6, a friend of Mosser's fed the cats in the park and was told by Code Enforcement Officer Frank Alvarez that the cats would need to be removed from the park "or he would have them trapped and taken to the shelter."

"I'm sort of confused because there's never been any complaints about those cats," Mosser told the council. "They've been there for six years so I'm really not sure what the complaint is. We're doing the city a courtesy. We're very lucky the shelter's working with me and giving the city of Ceres free spay and neuter for feral cats for all the residents trying to get the population down because the shelter takes a lot of cats and dogs from the city of Ceres."

Mosser said that after her group helped one Don Pedro Avenue resident sterilize five feral cats, Alvarez told her that the city has a limit of four pets and that she would have to take the cats to the shelter.

Later Borges said Alvarez was in error since feral cats are not considered domestic animals and do not fall under the county animal control ordinance of four pets per household.

"I've been doing this for 12 years now and it's always been constant battles with the cities," commented Mosser to council members. "Stanislaus County endorses trap neuter return - they were the first ones to do it. So I want to get on the same page with the city of Ceres. Either you want us to continue doing this or you just want all these animals to breed and get out of control and be euthanized at the shelter at taxpayers' expense."

Borges said Mosser and others who are registered to take care of feral cat colonies will not be cited. However, he said he will be speaking to shelter director Annette Patton to see if cats can be relocated to areas that would have less impact on city staff.