Homeless cat problem makes condo owners unhappy, and helpful hintsfrom readers

q i care for a small colony of cats, all neutered or spayed. They live around the garage of our condominium. Management is under pressure from residents who want the cats trapped.

- A.D., Miami Beach, Fla.

A The first step has already been taken in controlling the problem by ensuring the cats can't reproduce.

Becky Robinson, executive director of Alley Cat Allies based in Mt. Rainier, Md., recommends creating alternative spaces for the animals: feeding stations, litter boxes, and shelters in areas where they won't bother tenants. If the animals are used to being in a garage, move their food a few feet away every day, until they relocate.

If you worry about keeping cats out of gardens, line the area with large wood chips or lava rocks, and create a sandbox for them to dig in instead.

While it's ideal to find adoptive homes for runaway or abandoned cats - strays - this is not a realistic option for feral cats. Never having been in contact with human beings, these cats are wild and will flee when approached, much like raccoons.

Alley Cat Allies is a strong proponent of sterilization programs, including TNR (trap-neuter-return), followed by ear tipping, a procedure where a cat's left ear is clipped 1/2 inch, signaling that the cat has been treated.

On a practical level, Ms. Robinson notes that TNR is "cost effective" - cheaper than the more radical entrapment and euthanasia.

Feral cats are constantly in search of a food source. If one population of such cats is eliminated, another will replace it. Robinson feels that neighborhoods are often better off with the neutered cats they already have, as the toms won't fight, and the females won't whine and spray as much.

Alley Cat Allies: (202) 667-3630, on the Web: www.alleycat.org

Advice from readers

Here are two suggestions for removing oil stains from a driveway:

I use Oil-Dry because kitty litter is not a simple matter. It should be applied as soon as possible, and needs to be ground into the stain using a wood block. This pulverizes the Oil-Dry so it can absorb particles of oil.

- P.C., Downers Grove, Ill.

On my concrete driveway, I liberally smeared Palmolive automatic dishwasher liquid and left it for half an hour. Then I sprayed it off. No stain.

- M.C.P., Virginia Beach, Va.

Readers: Pose your questions and we'll seek out experts on home repairs, gardens, food, and family legal issues. Send queries to the Homefront Editor, The Christian Science Monitor, One Norway Street, Boston, MA 02115 or e-mail home@csps.com

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