The Jerusalem municipality has announced a program to feed the city’s thousands of stray cats, in an initiative slammed by experts who say it will merely exacerbate the problem.
According to a statement issued by the municipality last week, designated feeding stations will be set up around the city in areas where trash cans are now buried underground, and residents are welcome to add food and water in addition to the supplies left by the municipality.
With a budget of NIS 100,000 (approximately $27,000) to be spent over the course of the year, the municipality will supply seven sacks of dry food per day for the city’s felines — an annual total of 2,500 bags of feed.
“When I understood the magnitude of the problem and the great distress caused, I decided to take up the task immediately,” said Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion in the statement.
“The Jerusalem Municipality will maintain the balance between the quality of life of the residents and that of the street cats, through care rather than neglect. We will soon put in place organized feeders and the budget will provide backup for those who do sacred work with the animals of the city.”
However, urban nature experts and zoologists told the Haaretz daily that the program could lead to an increase in the number of street cats, and could also endanger other wild animals.
“When you provide a constant and continuous food source, you prevent the system from regulating the size of the population,” said Amir Balaban, director for urban nature at the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel. “Feeding is not the solution.”
Prof. Yoram Yom-Tov of the Zoology Department at Tel Aviv University also criticized the initiative.
“It’s really crazy,” he told Haaretz. “The density of cats in Jerusalem is the highest ever recorded anywhere in the world — about 2,000 cats per square kilometer. That’s around 1,000 times the density of cats in the wild. The more cats are fed, the more cats there will be.”
Yom-Tov also said the increase in the number of cats could inflate the population of other unfavorable animals and contribute to the spread of disease.
The zoologist said studies have shown that programs to spay and sterilize street cats have been proven ineffective, and limiting the availability of food is the only way to cull the cat population.
The Jerusalem Municipality responded to Haaretz, saying: “The feeding stations will be set up in coordination with professionals, with public participation and cleanliness, and prevention of the creation of nuisances. At the same time, the veterinary service continues to sterilize street cats and make efforts to find additional money within the budget to increase that program.”
The native cat population of Jerusalem was relatively low until the 1930s when the British Mandate introduced further felines to the city to help deal with a rat problem.