A koi-tastrophe is brewing in Carroll Gardens.
A rogue band of cats is on the prowl on Second Place, stalking exotic fish, threatening pet pigeons — and raising the blood pressure of the animal lover who owns the veritable menagerie.
“It’s very frustrating — I’m always worried about them attacking my fish and birds,” said Sal “The Birdman” Raimondi, the proud owner of 10 shimmering Japanese koi swimming in a $25,000 display in his front garden, and over 100 plump Canadian pigeons that he raises in custom-crafted coops in his backyard.
The problem has gotten worse over the past few months, when cats began to perch themselves beside Raimondi’s koi pond, licking their chops at the chance to get at a seafood dinner.
“They’re staring at our fish pond like they want to get them,” said Nancy Lograsso, Sal’s girlfriend.
And there’s reason to worry. Neighborhood cats have a history of violence: about five years ago, cats killed 12 of Raimondi’s pigeons.
Still, he doesn’t have a beef with the cats — nor does he want to see them sleeping with the fishes: “It’s nature. We know that. I can’t fault them.”
Block resident Vicki Devor, a cat-owner and rescuer, said a demographic shift could be aggravating the situation.
“When I moved here 15 years ago, the majority of people were Italian, and they were definitely not happy that I was let my cat out in the garden.”
But as the neighborhood changed, so too did residents’ stance on feline freedom. Now, “cat parties” are all the rage, Devor said. “They all just play and have a good time together.”
That steams Raimondi, who had few kind words for those who abandon their cats, or let them roam free. “They are irresponsible!” he bellowed. “They don’t care about other people’s feelings — and they’re not too concerned for their own pets either. If you love your cat, it’s supposed to be in your home!”
Lograsso agreed. “It’s very neglectful. Would you leave your child outside like that?”
But Second Place resident, fashion designer, and cat-owner Cally Rieman would respectfully disagree. She allows her cat Samo — a reference to the artist Jean-Michel Basquiat — free reign in the network interconnected backyards on her side of the street, which is opposite Raimondi’s home.
“He visits people,” she said, insisting that the 8-10 cats who party in the backyards are not responsible for any mischief.
“Of course, I feel bad for the guy, but my cats are not responsible,” she said. “It’s nature’s way. If you don’t have your yard fenced in, and cats have the opportunity to eat fresh fish, I’m sure they will.”
Raimondi said his hope is that the cats can be caught and put up for adoption.
But experts said removing strays in not the answer — neutering them is.
“If you remove the cats from the area, other strays will take up residence,” according to animal rescuer Jennifer Lamb, the president and founder of In Our Hands Rescue.
She suggested Raimondi invest in an electric fence around the pond or install other security measures to safeguard his pets. “There’s a lot he could do if he sat back and thought about it instead of looking at the cats as a problem.”
Besides koi and pigeons, Raimondi also owns Lucas, a stately ink-black raven/pied-crow hybrid with a beak as sharp as an icepick and a disposition to match.
He’s not too concerned about Lucas being harassed by cats. “Lucas wouldn’t stand for it. He’d take their eyes out.”