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No matter what you may think of cats, the disappearance of dozens of strays in Astoria over the last few weeks should be cause for concern.

Someone or multiple individuals apparently decided stray cats are a nuisance and should be removed from city streets anyway possible.

One neighborhood cat lover said she discovered two open cans of tuna floating in antifreeze left as a deadly trap for a couple of hungry strays.

A group of neighbors along 24th Street in Ditmars have shared the responsibilities of caring for a colony of eight feral cats since 2008 and have seen the animals disappear one by one, leaving a lone survivor.

Other cat foster parents have experienced the same thing and have reported that strays they once tended to have vanished from their usual haunts.

The problem has been exasperated with changes at the ASPCA that went into effect Jan. 1.

Lacking the necessary manpower to investigate every report of animal abuse, the ASPCA’s Humane Law Enforcement Unit transferred most of its cases over to the NYPD, the argument being the city’s police force spread across 77 precincts can better respond to and resolve issues involving animal cruelty.

Astorians worried about the missing cats, however, believe the police have not made these cases a priority.

Granted, in the grand scheme of all that is wrong with the city, missing homeless cats don’t rise to the level of emergency.

Of course, one solution to the missing feral cat problem would be to ensure that residents spay and neuter their pets, especially ones that spend time outdoors. And residents who volunteer to feed and care for homeless animals should think about doing the same thing to the colonies that set up homes in their yards.

Decrease the number of feral kittens born and you reduce the number of wild cats that go missing.

But the problem should not be allowed to spread beyond the feline population. By spring, the street posts around the borough might become filled with lost dog notices. And once the culprits grow tired of torturing animals, they could easily shift to hurting people.

Cruelty to animals should be and is a felony. Kidnapping, poisoning or even killing a stray because it knocks over your garbage cans or keeps you up at night howling for a possible mate is not the way to deal with the problem.

Instead, contact Neighborhood Cats, at neighborhoodcats.org, to learn how to deal with unwanted strays.

Updated 10:19 am, January 18, 2014
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