QUEENS — A group of stray cats that neighbors say has lived on the grounds of Forest Hills Hospital for more than a decade are being rounded up and taken away, the hospital said.
The hospital refused to say why the cats are being removed, but North Shore-LIJ spokesman, Tony Davenport, assured locals, "we are removing the cats humanely."
Representatives of the Save Kitty Foundation, which rescues feral cats, were asked by the hospital to trap the animals, they said. But after several weeks, the organization has been able to catch only two of what they believe is a group of at least five cats, said Debi Romano, president of the foundation.
“The hospital made it very clear: 'You trap the cats or we do,'” said Romano, fearing that "bad things are going to happen to those cats" if a wildlife control company is hired.
The two cats that were successfully trapped were taken to an animal sanctuary on Long Island, she said.
It has been a challenge to catch the rest of the cats because they're skittish after the foundation trapped them several years ago to have them spayed and neutered. They were returned to the hospital yard but now hide whenever volunteers approach them, Romano said.
The foundation asked locals to not give food to the cats because it’s easier to catch animals when they are hungry, but Romano said cat lovers continue to feed them.
Susan Hendel, 70, a neighbor concerned about the cats, said the process of trapping the animals has been long.
“They are really hungry,” she said.
The cats have lived in the lot behind the hospital, at the intersection of 66th Road and 103rd Street, for more than a decade, Hendel said, adding she was upset the animals were being removed.
"Why can’t they just live here? They are not hurting anyone," she said.
A hospital administrator who refused to give his name said the hospital was ordered to remove the cats by “a regulatory agency.”
“It wasn’t something that was our idea,” he said.