Feeding house stolen from feral cat colony in West Ghent

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — The feral cat colony across the street from Tortilla West restaurant in Norfolk has had several names over the years: “Tortilla East” and “Tortilla More West,” among them. The cats are well-known and generally loved by local businesses.

“Everybody at the Bakehouse, including the owner, has no problem whatsoever with the cats. In fact, we kind of like having them around,” said Kenny Gerry, a baker at The Bakehouse at Chelsea.

Karen Lauderback has volunteered to help trap, neuter or spay, and release the cats from the colony, in a process called “TNR.” She said a wooden feeding house has served an important purpose, since someone built it about seven years ago.

“[It was] placed there to keep the food dryer for the cats, but also kind of curb appeal for the presence of the cats … The structure had a mailbox, and sometimes I would find donations inside. One time, the cats got a Christmas card from someone,” Lauderback said.

Lauderback said she learned someone recently brought a complaint about the house to Norfolk City Animal Control. Before she could address it, she said she found the house had been taken. In the meantime, someone else brought a couple new houses for the cat colony.

WAVY.com asked Lauderback what she would say to someone who said, “Why does this matter? Feral cats are a nuisance.”

“Well, that’s why I say it’s important, because this is reducing the number of those nuisance cats, just in a humane way,” Lauderback said.

She said the old house had written material posted about the process of TNR and the colony and her contact information, in case anyone had questions about it.

“I don’t like to see this as a war of cat lovers versus cat haters … I wish people could understand that this really is a middle ground compromise,” Lauderback said.

Norfolk police said animal control have received many complaints about the cat colony over the years, but it has never gotten to the point that they felt they needed to remove the house. They said they did not remove the house and they do not know who did.

Police said the cat house was on public property.

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