GREAT BARRINGTON , Munchkin and Sylvester are wild and wary, but to Yvonne Borsody
, they're lovable nonetheless.Instead of a cushy couch, the 7-year-old felines have commandeered a ramshackle barn near the Berkshire Co-op Market.And instead of a human owner's loving touch, the pair have each other.They were born in the wild with a domestic cat bloodline: Munchkin and Sylvester are true feral cats.And their population is on the rise in the county.Borsody, the founder and director of Berkshire Animal Dreams, a nonprofit organization that traps, neuters and provides food and medical treatment for the county's feral cats, says the increase in numbers is due, at least in part, to the mortgage crisis; people are losing their homes, moving suddenly, and leaving pets behind.
Another scenario includes the owner who takes on a cute kitten, only to throw out the creature when it becomes "bratty," Borsody
The abandoned, often unneutered, cats that survive for any length of time become feral; and they mate and make more feral cats.
"It's rampant, and (the situation) is only getting worse," Borsody
can't be sure how many feral
and abandoned cats are in the Berkshires
estimates that the number is above 32,000 , roughly a quarter of the county's 131,117 human residents.And in its eight-year history, Borsody
says Berkshire Animal Dreams
has treated about 2,000 cats.
Standing in the rain in a parking lot on Bridge Street, Borsody
spooned some Little Friskies cat food onto paper plates and readied a pair of wire cage traps.
"I was told there was a long-hair and a gray tuxedo (cat) in the area," she
said."It's possible they've already been ear-tipped."Borsody
was referring to the practice of snipping off the tip of a feral cat's ear to signify that it has been trapped, neutered and given its shots before being returned to its home in the wild.The clipped ear is a "universal symbol," Borsody
said, and recognized by everyone who works with wild cat colonies.
Ear-tipping is painless to the cat and is performed by a veterinarian while the animal is anesthetized, she
After setting the trip-plate traps, Borsody
moved a cat carrier containing Blondie, a sand-colored young female with golden eyes, into the back seat of the station wagon.Blondie, Borsody's foster pet, is in the process of being re-introduced to human contact.The cat, barely a year old, was found shortly after it had given birth to a litter on Circular Avenue in Pittsfield.
"A rough place," Borsody
"There's a misconception that they're vicious, and that they'll attack, but they're more likely going to run the other way," Borsody
added."But once they're neutered and vaccinated, they're often healthier than most people's house pets.And they earn their keep."She
said that, thanks to Munchkin and Sylvester, there wasn't a mouse problem near the Dumpsters at the Berkshire Co-op Market.
The traps on Bridge Street had been open for an hour; Borsody
returned to check on them.Still empty.
"We'll get 'em," she
said with a sigh.