Norwalk’s stray cat problem has existed for so long that it has become a joke for local citizens and a tag line for local radio. But the majority of residents aren’t laughing. Their front porches have become lounging spaces for these unkept animals. Some have even reported feral cats “spraying” their front doors on a daily basis. And they’re asking that their local officials do something once and for all to remedy the situation.

When looking into ways to fix the problem, we can start with municipal ordinances in other cities. Some have a two or three pet policy, meaning that residents cannot keep more than a few pets on their property. Many go a step further, saying that pets who venture beyond the owner’s property are considered nuisances and that said owners can be fined for allowing those pets to roam at large.

So why can’t Norwalk take a similar position? The short answer is that we seem to have a lack of public officials with the political wherewithal to tackle the problem. Anyone who dares to address the issue stands a good chance of drawing the ire of the city’s pro-feline population, which is a small but vocal percentage of residents.

The long answer is a bit more complicated. For one, the local Humane Society can’t take in feral cats. Neither can the county dog warden. Add to that the fact that we have no “trap, neuter, release” program here in Norwalk, and you can easily see why the stray cat issue has remained unresolved for decades.

Additionally, while dogs require an annual license, there is nothing in the Ohio Revised Code that mandates such a license for cats. And maybe that’s where we can finally begin to tackle the problem of feral cats. If residents were required to purchase licenses for cats (as they do for dogs), perhaps we would see fewer “cat hoarders”.

These residents aren’t bad people. On the contrary, they are caring individuals who do not want to see any animal suffer. And so they put food out. Some even build makeshift shelters for stray cats. But their compassion for these animals has undoubtedly contributed to the overpopulation of feral felines. And their decency has created a continual headache for their neighbors.

So what’s the solution? Certainly more local legislation would help. A “trap, neuter, release” program seems a good start as well. After all, that would be a humane approach to population control. But both of these approaches would take time to deliver real results. What do you think?

How can the City of Norwalk balance empathy with a real solution to this epidemic?