Deal Reached to Keep Feral Cats

The feral cats, which are both loved and loathed by Meadows of Chantilly residents, can remain on the premises.
The feral cats, which are both loved and loathed by Meadows of Chantilly residents, can remain on the premises. (By Giuliana Nakashima -- The Washington Post)
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By Annie Gowen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, March 15, 2008

A colony of about 200 feral cats that was set to be trapped and probably euthanized by a property management company in Fairfax County won a reprieve yesterday after the cats' plight drew local and national attention.

Bethesda-based Alley Cat Allies, a national feral-cat advocacy group, said it had reached an agreement with the property owners of the Meadows of Chantilly mobile home community to save the cats.

They have agreed to trap and spay and neuter the feral animals for free, round up any domesticated strays or kittens for adoption, hand out electronic cat-deterrent boxes and car covers for unhappy neighbors and build several litter boxes on the perimeter of the property. The group will also pay to spay or neuter residents' pet cats at a volunteer sterilization clinic in nearby Centreville.

"We feel great about it . . . and I'm relieved for the residents who care so deeply about these cats," said Elizabeth Parowski, communications manager for Alley Cat Allies. She said the group will meet with residents of the community Thursday to explain details of how the cats will be trapped, sterilized and re-released in the neighborhood. The group will hand out cat-deterrent devices, called CatStop, which emit an ultrasonic sound that startles cats but that humans can't hear.

Ellen Kelleher, general counsel and executive vice president for Chicago-based Equity LifeStyle Properties, said the firm reached what it thought was a reasonable agreement with the cat advocacy group after much public outcry.

"We've determined it's appropriate to give them a chance to implement a program they believe will make everybody happy," Kelleher said. "We'll stand down. . . . If it doesn't work, we'll have to address it again."

Many residents of the quiet mobile home community just off Route 50 have cared for the cats over the years and have trapped dozens to be vaccinated and neutered. But other residents have complained bitterly that the cats are a nuisance, digging up gardens and leaving feces scattered through yards and under homes.

"I think it's pretty clear the situation is a little bit out of control -- even the Alley Cat people would agree with that," Kelleher said. "We've agreed to allow them to do this, and hopefully it will be able to work out, the population will be controlled and we'll have no further difficulties."

This week, the property management company for the Meadows briefly posted a notice informing residents that trapping would begin next week and the captured cats would be "put to sleep." The notice caused an uproar among the animals' caregivers and garnered widespread attention from the media and animal-rights blogs across the country.

Meadows resident Angi Myers said she was "thrilled" by the news. "It's a victory for the cats and those of us who care for the cats and love them," she said.

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