Categories: feral cats

Facebook post going viral as Urbanna Cat Project clashes with mayor over feral cat colony

This is one of those occasions where feral cat caregivers in particular (and cat lovers in general) need to join forces to save a feral cat colony in Virginia. Located in Urbanna are a group of 28 feral cats. At some point, vultures have descended upon the town and the cats are being blamed. Now the town mayor wants the cats to suffer. The beds that kept them warm over the winter are now in storage, and the threat of not being allowed to feed the cats and perhaps even remove them from the town has sent Facebook into a firestorm of activity this weekend.

Feral cat in Urbanna, Virginia (Urbanna Cat Project)

The nonprofit Urbanna Cat Project obtained a grant and spayed/neutered, vaccinated and ear tipped the town’s feral kitties. They are extremely well fed by faithful colony caretakers and the entire thing has been a great success bringing the colony’s numbers from 40 to 28 since they aren’t reproducing over the years.

Well, the mayor Steve Hollberg seems to think the cats are a nuisance and an embarrassment so on March 23 he ordered the caretakers to CEASE FEEDING THE CATS ALTOGETHER! Yes, that’s right. They are to just let the cats starve to death. Also, he ordered the caretakers to take up all the cat shelters immediately and the temperatures dipped into the 33 F range. After all the money, time, hard work and love the volunteers have given the cats over the years, not to mention, I’m sure this can be classified as animal neglect! Thankfully the cats are still being fed and the feeders aren’t being harassed-yet…

The history of the Urbanna town cats is a long one. The feral cats have been there for more than 30 years. The town applied for a grant from Petsmart awhile back and the money was used to spay/neuter around 300 cats from the area. The vulture issue is why the cats are in danger of being denied food and possibly even removed from the area. After the oyster festival (for which the town is famous), the giant birds created havoc in Urbanna and the cats are getting blamed.

When Mayor Hollberg was asked why the cats should be removed, he told a representative of the Urbanna Cat Project the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) had suggested the birds could be there due to the cats. The USDA did NOT order the volunteers to take up the houses or stop feeding the cats. The Urbanna Cat Project director, Suzanne White, researched this theory and learned the cats are not what attracted the vultures.

As for now, the cats are being fed twice a day by volunteers. There’s a morning feeding and an evening feeding. The cats are allowed to eat while the volunteers wait so their bowls can be taken up and removed from the area. So far no one has been approached and told to stop feeding the cats.

We all need to contact Mayor Hollberg and let him know how we feel about this right away. Since he doesn’t have an email on the town website, we can email the town administrator Holly Gailey at h.gailey@urbannava.gov or call the town office at 804-758-2613. Also, go add to the comments on their Facebook community page. Please be respectful but firm in any correspondence with town leaders. All we’re asking is for the cats to continue to be cared for, including shelter.

Mayor Hollberg made a public statement Saturday on the town Facebook page stating:

“The shelters have been moved across Virginia Street to Allen Group, so that is the solution for the time being and that’s roughly three properties away, not even half a block. It’s appropriate and a fantastic compromise, rather than imposing on property owners who don’t want the feeding stations on their private property and that’s come to light from this exercise. For those of you concerned, I’m told there are only 28 cats out of the original population, so if we can find people to accept them, that would be really great. If we could split that small population among four folks, that would help spread the burden. It’s a tribute to the Urbanna Pet Project the population has reduced, apparently. Great volunteer spirit on their part, we just need to adjust the model a bit. Thanks for your concern!!”

Unfortunately, the mayor has it all wrong. The feral cats do not have shelters now, and the Allen Group has not invited the cats and their shelters to move onto their property. They’re not aggressive and are very shy. But permission is needed if the cats are to live elsewhere in Urbanna.

Feral cats are included in all companion animal cruelty laws in the state of Virginia. The code states:

Code of Virginia — Title 3.2 – Chapter 65 — Comprehensive Animal Care Law — Description of Animal Cruelty in § 3.2-6570
“Companion animal” means any domestic or feral dog, domestic or feral cat, nonhuman primate, guinea pig, hamster, rabbit not raised for human food or fiber, exotic or native animal, reptile, exotic or native bird, or any feral animal or any animal under the care, custody, or ownership of a person or any animal that is bought, sold, traded, or bartered by any person.

And please, cat trolls, don’t start in on saying feral cats are an “invasive species” because domestic dogs are on the list as well. Click here and scroll down to mammals. You don’t hear anyone saying domestic dogs need removing, now do you? If the feral cats are removed from Urbanna, more cats (ready, willing and able to produce kittens) will most likely fill the vacancy they left behind.

I sincerely hope Hollberg thinks about the options. To allow the 28 remaining cats to die out naturally over a period of about 10 years (where they’re much loved and cared for), or have them removed and dozens come to take their place.

For more on the Urbanna Cat Project, check out their Facebook page.



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Elisa Black-Taylor

Elisa is an experienced cat caretaker and rescuer. She lives in the US. As well as being a professional photographer, Elisa has been a regular contributor to PoC for nine years. See her Facebook page.

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