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SEP 22 - SEP 29, 2015

Bogus Claim of the Week? Feral Cats Outnumber People in Niagara Falls

SEP 22, 2015

If there were really more cats than people in Niagara Falls one would expect to see more scenes like these.

On September 16, Amy Lewis, Niagara County Director of Niagara County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, took to the airwaves to make a startling claim. There are more feral cats, 60,000, in the city of Niagara Falls than there are people.

The population of Niagara Falls is estimated to be 49,500.

The story appeared on WGRZ and immediately went viral on the internet and through the Associated Press. More wild cats than people in one of America’s most famous tourist destinations.

Unfortunately, no one thought to ask Lewis how she happened to arrive at the 60,000 figure.

There have always been a lot of strays in the neighborhoods along the Niagara River, but 60,000 of them?

What was the methodology? Lewis never said. And how were feral cats differentiated from ordinary cats just let out by their owners to roam the neighborhood?

And was Lewis’s estimate of the number of feral cats related to stories appearing the very next day in local media about the SPCA’s plans to build a new county animal shelter?

The proposed shelter improvements are expected to cost between $8 million and $10 million. SPCA officials are planning to launch a capital campaign to raise money for the project. The city of Niagara Falls and other municipal partners are likely to be called upon to participate.

Officials say the SPCA’s current facility on Lockport Road is now housing roughly double the amount of animals it did before adopting its “No Kill” policies. Some of the animals are currently being kept in staff offices and other parts of the facility.

In a national survey by the Humane Society of the United States, it is estimated there 60-100 million feral cats in the U.S., with approximately 17 million people feeding about half of them.

But nowhere has anyone claimed that feral cats outnumber people in any American city until Lewis gave her unsubstantiated number.

The Reporter would like to see the methodology used.

One thing is certain: news reports all over reported that Niagara Falls - perhaps uniquely - is overrun with stray cats and fewer people. 

It further damages the reputation of an already badly damaged city's reputation.

But the facts behind it - that are 60,000 feral cats and 50,000 people - is very likely nonsense, factually untrue.






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