PITTSFIELD -- There is, according to Animal DREAMS executive director Yvonne Borsody, a virtual army of wild and feral cats in Berkshire County.
"Thousands at least," she said. "Probably more."
It is a concerning statistic for people who don't like cats and for those who cherish them.
Borsody is a member of the latter strata, which is why she and a much smaller army of determined volunteers have undertaken a project to spay or neuter and vaccinate as many of these cats as possible.
Presently, the volunteers are canvassing the neighborhoods bounded by the Housatonic River and North Street, Wahconah Park and Bradford Street.
Funded by an $8,000 matching grant from PetSmart Charities, Borsody and about 25 volunteers have been traversing the West Side neighborhood of the city trapping feral cats, handing them over to veterinarians and,
when the animals have recovered from their procedures, releasing them back into their neighborhoods.
While releasing them back into community may seem like a less-than-ideal solution, Borsody said it is the best option. Cats that have been born in the wild, even after only a few months, are nearly impossible to domesticate, she said. And removing them from the neighborhood would merely create a vacuum in which other feral cats would occupy.
With those cats now healthy and unable to reproduce, they are no longer as much of a problem. In addition, she said, the animals keep rodent problems in check.
Animal DREAMS volunteers build small shelter boxes for the cats in certain parts of the neighborhoods, such as at the rear of buildings, where feral or wild cats can live.
"We don't want to see these cats die," said Borsody. "We just don't want them to reproduce."
The program has just started, and Borsody and her crew so far has spayed or neutered and vaccinated about 30 felines. The hope is to eventually get to every -- or almost every -- feral or wild cat in the city. Eventually, the group hopes to expand the program to the rest of the county.
Borsody credited her volunteers for their work.
"It's a huge project," she said. "We couldn't do it without them."
"I love cats, but I love all animals," said volunteer Ellen Casey, of Hinsdale, cradling a cat in her arms. "It just kills me to see them wandering around the city, especially the young kittens."
Patty Brown-Charland, a member of the Animal DREAMS board of directors, also credited three local veterinary hospitals for discounting their services: Pittsfield Veterinary Hospital, Hilltown Vet Clinic in Washington and Valley Veterinarians of Lee.
Borsody said the grant also covers discounted spaying and vaccinations for local cat owners.
"If there is a cat owner out there who can't afford to spay their cat, call us," she said.
She added that if residents out there are feeding feral or wild cats, "let us know."
Those cats will be included in the program.
How to help
Animal DREAMS is still looking for donations. To contribute, please send checks, payable to Animal DREAMS, to 441 North St., Pittsfield, MA 01202. Or call 413-997-CATS (2287). For
information, visit www.berkshireanimaldreams.org.
To reach Derek Gentile:
or (413) 496-6251.
On Twitter: @DerekGentile