Cat colony a massive problem for Memphis woman

By Anna Marie Hartman - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - Stephanie Jackson is an artist and an animal lover, but when she moved into her Memphis home 18 months ago, she was not prepared for an outdoor cat colony that quickly grew out of control.  

"They're just everywhere," she said. "Probably 30, give or take."

Jackson said the feline frenzy began when her next door neighbor started feeding a handful of house cats that were abandoned as a result of foreclosures on her street.

"It's turned into this. It doesn't take long for two cats to turn into thirty," she said.

Now, wild cats of every size and color are turning up everywhere she turns, clawing their way to the roof tops, and the top of her fence

"I think of my yard as a litter box," Jackson said.

In fact, when the cats are not doing their business in the back yard, they are on her front porch urinating on her screen door and scratching up her front porch chairs. And the stench of cat urine has worked its way into her home.

"All the air freshener in the world doesn't get rid of the smell," she said.

Jackson has complained to animal control, but by legal definition, stray cats do not have an owner.  In a statement to Action News 5, Memphis Animal Control said, "our resources limit what we can do.  The very least we can do is identify the individual feeding or contributing to the problem and try to address the issue there with the authority we have."  

"They said I could protect my property by trapping them, but then there's nowhere to release them," Jackson said.

Compounding the issue is the fact that Jackson is scheduled to give birth to a baby boy on May 8th.

"Once he gets here, I don't want the parasites the diseases they carry," she said. "None of them are spayed and neutered, or vaccinated."

According to the Centers for Disease Control, cats can spread toxoplasmosis, a parasite contracted by eating infected rodents, birds, or other small animals.  The parasite is then passed in the cat's feces.  If pregnant women ingest the parasite, newborns can develop serious birth defects such as blindness or brain damage.

"They're eating mice and birds and anything else that can cause that, so you don't know how many are infected," Jackson said.

Jackson's neighbor would not give his name, but admitted to fostering the felines.  

"We just started feeding them in the back yard," he said. "I've got 10 or 12."

He promised to fix the problem.  

"I'm getting ready to take them down to my dad's house, anyway," the neighbor said. "He's got a farm in Mississippi."

For her part, Jackson does not mind if he keeps a few.  

"As long as they're spayed and neutered and vaccinated, then fine, have 10 cats," she said.

Animal Control says feeding stray cats is what leads to a cat population problem. Unless you are willing to have them spayed or neutered you are only contributing to a growing public nuisance in the community.

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