A family of cats has sparked a dogfight on a Prospect Heights block, with one woman claiming a neighbor absconded with her outdoor felines and dumped them in a Queens park.
The cat tale begins last fall, when four wobbly legged kittens wandered into Anna Pond’s St. Marks Avenue garden, sticking close to the fence and “peeking their miniature heads” above the grass. Pond and her husband, Paul, were smitten. They named the furballs Inky, Blinky, Mookie and Clyde.
“Inky became a total lover, rolling over each time Paul approached so he could rub his belly,” Pond said.
The Ponds grew so attached to their backyard kitties that they began treating them as if they were their own. They had the cats spayed and neutered. They fed them daily. When the Ponds vacationed, they had a cat-sitter watch over their frisky charges.
“They were our pets,” she said.
But this inter-species idyll soon came to an abrupt end.
In June, the couple noticed that the cats began to disappear one by one. First Clyde, then, a week later, Inky and Blinky were missing, too.
Mookie was left wandering the backyard, “mewing in an unfamiliar way, like she was crying,” said Pond.
The couple confronted its neighbor, who admitted to trapping cats and releasing them in Queens.
The neighbor agreed to speak with The Brooklyn Paper as long as her name was not published. She defended her actions as neighborly.
“When I saw five stray cats living in my backyard … I did extensive research to figure out how I could bring them to be sterilized,” said the neighbor. “All anyone could offer was to come and sterilize the cats. But I would have to first trap the cats and provide a space for them to recover from the surgery. I was not willing to do that. It was too laborious.”
Meanwhile, the cats were diminishing her quality of life. She said that she found carcasses of dead birds in her garden. Her 5-year-old grandson was afraid to venture into the backyard.
“I personally don’t think cats should be allowed outside to be exposed to cat AIDS, or to get maimed by other cats,” she said. “If I wanted a cat, I would have a cat and I would keep it in my house.”
The neighbor admits to trapping at least one cat and having a friend deposit it in Queens, possibly in Floral Park.
“I didn’t destroy it,” she said. “I didn’t hurt it. I just wanted to lower the population of cats. I thought I was doing a service to the neighborhood.”
The Ponds don’t share that view.
“I asked her three times to find out where the cats had been taken, reminding her of my phone number, and three times she said they would call the person who had removed them,” said Pond. “Maybe they did, but they never called us back. Paul still looks at me with a sad face from time to time saying, ‘I miss the kitties. Especially Inky.’”
The Ponds brought the catnappers’ literature from Slope Street Cats, a local cat-lover organization that neuters and cares for feral cats.
“I said, ‘Thank you for explaining it to me,’” said the neighbor. “‘I will not take any of the cats away anymore, as long as you are respectful of my property and keep the cats confined as much as possible.’”
Indeed, both Pond and her neighbor agree that there needs to be more public education about alternatives to trapping and displacing cats.
“Public education is the problem,” said the neighbor. “I actually spent a lot of time trying to find alternative solutions and did not come up with anything.”
Laura Brahm, the executive director of Slope Street Cats, said trapping ferals is actually an ineffective way to get rid of them, because other feral cats will move into the now-empty territory. Brahm also said that Inky, Blinky and Clyde would probably find life in Queens unpleasant at best.
“In all likelihood they [will] starve, get hit by cars, or otherwise meet a nasty end,” she said.