A growing cat-astrophe in Forest Park is threatening our quality of life and the lives of hundreds of helpless animals. Large colonies of feral cats have been found in town. These stray cats engage in all kinds of feline-ious behavior: fighting, bird killing and spraying. A group of Forest Park volunteers has formed to care for these cats and keep them from becoming a public nuisance.

The group is called CATS for Forest Park. The acronym stands for Care And Trap-neuter-release Strays. They have the blessing of the village and the sponsorship of Animal Care League, the shelter in Oak Park, to monitor and feed the cat colonies, while reducing their population through sterilization. Strays are also immunized for rabies and other diseases.

Terri Woods is one of the volunteers who trap these cats. She takes them to Animal Care League, where they are neutered, get shots and have an ear clipped to show they’ve had the full treatment. Terri then releases them at the exact spot they were captured. Strays that are suffering from severe diseases, like carcinoma, are put down.

This service costs $25 a cat. Money was also needed for dry cat food, so Terri hosted a fundraiser at McGaffer’s in March that raised $700. Terri cares so much about the program, she’s shelled out her own cash. The group has posted signs near the colony, asking residents not to feed the cats. The sign explains that a trained volunteer is feeding the cats on a set schedule.

The colony in question was discovered by Michelle Rogovin and her husband, Mark, when they were out for a walk last fall. At Des Plaines and Harvard, they encountered more than a dozen cats coming out from everywhere. After brainstorming with Terri, Michelle set up a Web site, printed brochures and created signs. In April, they held a meeting, which was attended by 15 very motivated volunteers and the police chief.

Now CATS wants to educate residents and engage more volunteers. Michelle said they have very specific roles for volunteers to perform, like feeding cats and transporting them to the shelter in Oak Park. It’s not dangerous work. Terri, the trapper, says she’s yet to be scratched by a stray.

Even if you’re not a cat-lover, which sadly I am not, the program is a humane way to treat a major nuisance. Why, when Terri and I were talking, we watched a feline do the stray-cat strut right across Lathrop. So, if you want to know more about this problem, or want to help out, come to the CATS meeting on June 30, at 7 p.m., at the library.

By the way, Terri and Michelle both maintain cathouses on their property. These are insulated wooden boxes, where strays can take shelter from the elements. Not the other kind.