Dearborn's Cat Problem

A Dearborn resident aims to educate on how everyone can help control feral and stray cat populations.

During the 13 years my business has been located in the city of Dearborn, I've heard quite a bit about how the city has a problem with rats. However, after moving into the city to live, I discovered an equally disturbing, four lettered word the city has a problem with: CATS.

Stray cats are in all major U.S. cities these days, a problem made increasingly bigger by the difficulties faced in tough economic times. People everywhere have been forced to give up their pets due to a lack of money and this, coupled with how quickly they breed, has dramatically raised the number of homeless and feral cats living on the streets in Dearborn.

Adding to this problem is a segment of the population who feels that by feeding street cats they are helping the cats. A number of these same people also offer them "homes" by allowing the cats to live under their porches or in their garage. These people honestly feel they are helping the stray cats by "providing" for them, but quite the opposite is true.

There are those who feel a cat or two being fed in the yard is no big deal, but cats with no medical attention, especially cats that are not neutered or spayed, have an amazing ability to reproduce. According to the Michigan Humane Society a single unspayed female cat, her mate and all their offspring can produce a total of 370,092 kittens in just seven years.

Some folks think that trapping the stray cats and having them spayed or neutered is cruel, but in reality it is far more cruel to the cats and the environment to not get them sterilized. A population of feral cats can destroy a local or migrating bird population, and can themselves become food for coyotes and birds of prey like hawks and owls. A cat is similar in size to a rabbit, and a kitten is light weight and easily snatched from a backyard. With birds of prey actually swooping into yards and attacking small terriers it is not a surprise cats who are constantly outdoors are also targets.

A number of cities have trap-neuter-release programs that work, and even if not city run, have greatly reduced the cat population. Hamtramck and Redford are two of those cities, with citizen-run animal rescue organizations that understand the importance of population control. Their efforts over the past few years have greatly reduced the number of homeless and stray cats in their areas, while also relieving stress on the local economy. They work with veterinarians who understand the issue, and offer low cost treatment so the cats are sterilized and treated for underlying health issues. This helps stop the spread of disease to house pets.

A sad and disturbing fact to note here is that in the state of Michigan, more than 60 percent of the cats in shelters are euthanized. In 2010 alone, more than 60,500 cats were euthanized in shelters in Michigan. This number does not include the staggering amount of cats hit by cars, eaten by predators, or disposed of in some way after a human decides to not keep the kittens born in their backyard.

Dogs in Dearborn are subject to many rules and regulations and must be licensed and always on a leash or in a fenced yard. There are ordinances against feeding birds and squirrels on the ground.

Is the cat overpopulation not being treated as an issue because the city is hoping the cats will keep the rats under control? That is a foolish idea, especially when these ferals are being fed by people who think it is the right thing to do, and that cat food is simply attracting more rodents.

Feral cats and alley cats are a human-made problem. Feral cats often cannot be tamed, and most shelters must put them to sleep. For humans to be responsible about this issue the best thing they can do is trap the cats, have them neutered, and release them back into the neighborhood. Cats mark their territory, which keeps other cats away, and so the best course of action is to get all strays neutered. Stop the influx of new cats, both from breeding and from other areas.

Friends of the offers help to those who have feral cats in their yard or on their property. The Michigan Humane Society has made donations to help with low-cost spay and neuter. These programs need to be taken advantage of.

Every person who is allowing this cat explosion to continue is responsible for those cats being “put to sleep.” It is time for the citizens of this city to make a change. Take responsibility. If you have those cats in your yard–get them fixed. If you are the neighbor of someone who has ferals in their yard or garage or under their porch–report them. By turning a blind eye YOU are adding to the senseless killing of all these animals–animals who did not ask to be on the streets in the first place, breeding over and over, having their kittens eaten by hawks, being hit by cars on the roads. It is time to take action.

If you would like more info on local trap, neuter and release programs, or if you would like to talk to someone about starting a TNR in your area, please feel free to contact these local groups:

And if you need information on low-cost vet care or controlling the cat population explosion in your yard, the FFDAS will be happy to hear from you.

Windy Weber
Dearborn resident and business owner

Lee Jacobsen April 30, 2012 at 02:49 PM
Marooned, the birds of prey will only stay as long as the prey is plentiful, otherwise they will move on. Feral cats are not a problem as much as barking dogs, yapping and trying to chase all those feral cats. We should relax the lease laws regarding dogs and let them chase the cats once in awhile. When I walk my cat, dogs step aside, so the chasing may go both ways. Bottom line, if a pet does not have an owner to sponsor it, and that is slim and none for feral animals, then what else can you do but take it to the shelter, let them try and find a home, and then go from there.
Molly Tippen April 30, 2012 at 03:04 PM
I don't comment on stories very often, but I have to say, please be patient with people who trap stray cats. I don't live in Dearborn, but I've trapped more cats than I can count, and in four cases, they have become my pets. The others I have found homes for within my circle of family and friends. Sometimes, it has taken a few months to lure a cat, but I always try. Only in two cases did I have to turn a cat over to shelter. When someone cares enough to trap the cat, it's a win-win: The neighborhood doesn't have to worry about scads of errant cats, the cat gets a new home a safe life, and the owner gets a new best friend.
marooned in Dbn May 01, 2012 at 01:10 AM
Lee, that is the point. Not only Dbn, but other cities across the country complain about feral pets esp. cats. The bird of prey idea is a good one. When the problem is reduced, let the birds fly to where they may. When the cat numbers increase, which they will do, the birds can return where the prey they like is. This is good for endangered birds of prey, plenty of fresh food. I dont agree about unleashed dogs...too much hazard for ppl on the sidewalks. Before anybody points this out...I know that birds of prey will also feed on the occasional song bird too. This is natural, and to me an accepted,but unfortunate side effect.
AbuHak May 02, 2012 at 02:14 AM
Solution - Open more Thai and Vietnamese Restaurants in Dearborn.
Heather Cook Gilbeau May 03, 2012 at 03:19 AM
Have a neighbor with what I call the Kitty Condo on her porch where it's an enclosed shelter of sorts with electric heating blankets in the winter and lots of food and water for every stray that wants to visit. It's like a Motel 6 for cats. Also feeds every bird, squirrel and anything else that wants to get food. My car and house are covered in bird poop daily and her next door neighbors roof is ruined from the congregation of pigeons that wait for their daily meals. It's an eyesore and it should be illegal. Animal control has been called to her house multiple times and I feel for her since she's elderly and not in good health but she is only causing the problem to increase. She has cats that live in her garage that have had litter after litter of kittens and while she gives them away she needs help. She should be forced to take down the kitty condo and open up her porch and stop feeding animals. It brings other creatures at night too including raccoon, skunks, and possums due to the food she leaves out. It's dangerous for all as we have had to deal with increased amounts of rabid skunks lately too and their urine is dangerous for our dogs even if they are immunized. Don't want to make enemies either but enough is enough!


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