Increasing amount of feral cats causing Port Neches health concerns

Published 7:47 pm Thursday, July 20, 2023

PORT NECHES — A passionate, lengthy discussion on the feeding of feral cats at Port Neches Riverfront Park ended with a new ordinance but no real solution.

The ordinance prohibits the feeding of feral/stray animals in the city. The new measure comes with penalties; the first offense being a fine of $200 and the second violation shall be $100 per animal involved in the incident and the surrender of the animals, according to the ordinance.

Police Chief Cheri Griffith told council of a colony of cats that live at the park and have led to complaints regarding feces and related smell and unsanitary conditions on the park tables.

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Griffith said the smell was noticeable during RiverFest, adding a sergeant working after hours security noted cats on vendor booths where food was sold.

The ever-growing number of feral/stray cats live near La Maison Beausoleil, an authentic Cajun home on park property that serves as a museum.

Vyki Derrick, president of the nonprofit Friends of Ferals, took on the issue of the feral cats that she said are being dumped in the area by trapping and spraying or neutering the cats, having them vaccinated then releasing them back.

She has been doing this for a year and spoke to the council in opposition of the ordinance.

Over the past year her group of volunteers sterilized and vaccinated 108 cats within Port Neches, found forever homes for some and transferred approximately 50 to no-kill shelters.

“The Port Neches Park colony alone accounted for over 50 percent of these successful efforts,” Derrick said.

But the cats find other food sources such as scavenging through trash cans or feeding on wildlife, she said.

“A feeding ban would only shift the problem elsewhere, rather than addressing it effectively,” she said. “Banning the feeding of feral cats also fails to consider the compassionate aspect of these issues.”

But the cats that are fixed and vaccinated still do not eliminate the problem of there being a colony of feral cats at the park, Councilman Robert Arnold noted.

He asked if there is a way to mass trap the colony so they can be relocated. Griffith said she is not aware of how to do that.

Port Neches resident Michael Satcher met Derrick when there were seven feral cats under his home. Her organization had them sterilized, vaccinated and brought back.

He also noted unsterilized cats could possibly reproduce five times per year.

Councilman John Davenport said the true answer would be to rehome the cats but that is difficult to do.

Mayor Glenn Johnson said council is responsible for the health and welfare of the residents of the city.

But not all cats can be rehomed, Derrick said. Some of the feral cats cannot live inside of a home.

The consensus on all sides of the issue was that something needs to be done but the solution was not found Thursday night.

On a related topic, council approved an ordinance making it illegal to dump live or dead animals in the city.