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McKees Rocks considers partnering with organization on feline issue

By Elizabeth Perry

Michelle DeFade is working to get McKees Rocks’ feral cat problem under control.

Michelle DeFade

DeFade runs Cat Ears Revolution, based in Sheraden, an organization that catches feral cats and spays and neuters them in order to control the population.

“They’re out there, they’re everywhere. They’re peeing, they’re fighting – I get it. I never was a cat lover and I started this just seeing cats outside of my door,” DeFade said.

At this time, McKees Rocks does not contract with an animal control service and residents who want to remove animals have to call for service at their own expense according to McKees Rocks Borough Manager LeeAnn Wozniak. McKees Rocks once contracted with Triangle Animal Control, which was shut down due to widely reported charges of embezzlement and animal cruelty in 2012.

DeFade goes door to door wearing cat ears, trying to encourage residents to spay and neuter their pets.

So far, Cat Ears Revolution has treated more than 700 cats, and a good two-thirds of those cats originated from McKees Rocks, DeFade said.

The goal is to spay or neuter 150 cats per year which cost about $60 per cat, said DeFade when addressing council during the March 14 McKees Rocks meeting. Many of the cats are feral and can’t live inside like a housecat.

DeFade and volunteers associated with the charity take care of felines within a seven to eight-mile radius, by spaying, neutering and feeding them. DeFade said feeding outdoor cats prevents them from decimating the wild bird population.

MarySue Noble Flick, a local artist who has incorporated McKees Rocks’ stray cats into her artwork, is also a “feeder.” Her involvement began after she and her husband, Mayor David Flick, witnessed the birth of two kittens in the empty lot next door. Less than a year later, one of those kittens returned and gave birth to five kittens of her own.

“They really can multiply really, really fast,” she said.

Noble Flick made sure those cats were spayed or neutered and then took in three of them herself.

She began trapping neighborhood cats, having them fixed, then released them with a notched ear to indicate they’d been treated.

Former Council Member Elizabeth Delgado, who died in 2021, introduced Noble Flick to Cat Ears Revolution. Delgado was also a feeder and had worked to control the stray cat population in McKees Rocks.

It’s been nearly a year since she’s caught a new feral cat in McKees Rocks, Noble said, but abandoned house cats remain a problem. This is especially tragic because cats raised in a home don’t develop the skills to hunt for food and can’t fend for themselves outside, she said.

McKees Rocks Councilmember Vincent Corrie is taking the lead on animal control in the borough after getting several complaints from his constituents in Ward 2.

Corrie said a group of between 20-25 cats has taken up residence in his block between Ella to Catherine streets, to the consternation of his neighbors.

“I have compassion for the cats, but there has to be something done, they're getting out of control,” Corrie said.

Corrie reached out to DeFade after learning about her organization.

“Lo and behold she was speaking at that meeting that very night,” Corrie said.

At the upcoming April McKees Rocks Council meeting, Corrie said he planned to present plans to partner with Cat Ears Revolution to help with the program.

Humane Animal Rescue has given Cat Ears Revolution a $1,800 grant to spay and neuter animals specifically in McKees Rocks, DeFade said.

“It costs us anywhere between five to eight thousand a year,” DeFade said.

At this point, she wants to implement a program so lower income pet-owners will come to her organization for low-cost spaying and neutering.

DeFade said through the efforts of her organization, they are beginning to stabilize the cat population.

“We are not getting as many kittens this year,” DeFade said.

One female can give birth four times a year, and the animals can get pregnant at four months of age.

Euthanizing cats is less effective than trapping and releasing, DeFade said, and it is much less humane. Though the feral cat population remains high in McKees Rocks, the organization is already experiencing success.

“I figure I can stabilize this area in two to three years,” DeFade said.

In 2020, the borough passed Ordinance 1767, which codifies a plan to control the feral cat population through trapping, neutering, vaccinating and releasing. “Feeders” who leave out food for cats are subject to fines if they don’t clean up the food to prevent raccoons and other animals from thriving. DeFade said the ordinance has made her work possible.



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