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Puss gets the boot

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Photo gallery

1/9
‘Tastes so good cats ask for it by name’: Nancy Rogers, a veterinary tech and animal activist shows one of several “feeding stations” scattered in a forested area near Plumb Beach.
2/9
Public enemy No. 1: The National Parks Service says feral cats are a danger critters native to Plumb Beach and plans to “dismantle” a cat shanty town where a group of Brooklyn feline fanatics care for the homeless hairballers.
3/9
Blondes have more fun: Blondie is a timid housecat someone dumped at the colony about three years ago, a caretaker says.
4/9
Feline friends: Patches and Rusty have been inseparable since a pitiful pet-owner dumped Rusty in Plumb Beach a decade ago. Patches was born in the wild to once-pet parents, caretakers say.
5/9
Looking for a home: Boots is one of the colony’s adoptable members — others are just too wild for the average pet owner, the cat wranglers say.
6/9
Dedi-cat-ed lady: Carolyn Euvino has travelled from Bay Ridge to Plumb Beach every day for the last 11 years to feed her colony of stray cats — dropping as much as $120 on cab rides during inclement weather.
7/9
What a mug: This sour puss is a sweetie at heart.
8/9
Living large: This feline may be named Itsy Bitsy, but it appears to be pretty well-fed.
9/9
A plum gig: Two wild cats play in their Plumb Beach paradise.

First they came for the kitties.

A group of wild cats living in shanty town in Plumb Beach faces eviction by the National Park Service, which says the cats pose a danger to native species.

But the cats’ human caretakers — who built them an elaborate wood-and-cardboard habitat in the woods and feed them daily — argue that the feral felines are doing more good than harm.

“Do you know there’s a rat problem in New York City? You know where there’s no rat problem? Plumb Beach,” said Janelle Barabash of Midwood, who has been caring for them for months along with several other cat fanciers.

The colony consists of 33 cats living in a few dozen shelter and feeding structures organized into six cat condo clusters. It has been a haven for wild and abandoned cats for 11 years, according to Nancy Rogers, another caretaker.

The National Park Service, which has jurisdiction over the beach, said the maleficent mousers threaten area wildlife.

“For a national park to have any exotic species that could a pose threat to native wildlife is in direct conflict with national laws,” said Doug Adamo, a biologist with the federal agency. “It is conservatively estimated that 1 billion birds killed by domestic cats in U.S. alone.”

Adamo did not have numbers specific to Brooklyn or estimates of the body count Plumb Beach’s pugnacious pussycats may have racked up over the last decade, but recent studies have shown that even domestic house cats allowed to roam at night actually hunt and kill far more wildlife than previously estimated.

Local birdwatchers favor moving the cats to protect the local wildlife — especially since Plumb Beach is such a rare and specialized habitat.

“I would hope that the colony caretakers and the Park Service could work out a plan to relocate the cats that live currently at Plumb Beach to existent colonies that are not in such an environmentally sensitive area,” said Rob Bate, a member of the Brooklyn Bird Club. “The littoral zone and saltwater marshes along coasts are severely diminished habitats worldwide and deserve special consideration, protection and attention.”

A Parks Service spokesman said the agency discovered the shanty town last month, but cat advocates say the feds have known about the feline favela for a long time.

When the Army Corps of Engineers was rebuilding the beach after Hurricane Sandy, the Corps gave the head caretaker a key to the fenced-off area. Indeed no disaster seems to have stopped the caretakers.

“When the snow was waist-high this winter, we took a $120 cab to come feed the cats,” said Carolyn Euvino, a Bay Ridge retiree and the chief kitty caretakers who pays for the felines’ food and shots. “I’m a ‘crazy cat lady.’ ”

All 33 animals are fixed and up-to-date on their shots, said Rogers — a veterinary technician who volunteers for trap-and-release organizations.

The effort is a labor of love, but for others, it is much more.

“It’s like therapy for me — I was in Vietnam,” said Ridgeite Joe Destefan. “I still go to group [therapy], but this helps a lot.”

But a sign recently posted near the colony at a parking lot along the Belt Parkway stated that the feds would claw back the land on June 13 by “dismantling” the kitties’ shanties. The Park Service plans to capture the cats using humane traps and then demolish the wood-and-cardboard shelters, Adamo said.

After wrangling with the caretakers, the feds extended the deadline for a week as a show of good faith — it will also help the caretakers transport their charges to nearby shelters while the cats find a permanent home, Adamo said.

But the cats’ caretakers say the task isn’t that easy, and a stint in a shelter will be a death sentence.

“They get five days before they put them down,” said Rogers.

Most of the felines are “true ferals” — meaning they avoid people at all costs — and only a handful are adoptable, she said.

Moreover, there is no way to trap all 33 cats before the Parks Service’s deadline, caretakers said.

“It took a year and a half to trap and spay or neuter the population,” said Rogers. “I don’t know how Doug [Adamo] thinks we’ll do this in eight days.”

Reach reporter Max Jaeger at mjaeger@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-8303. Follow him on Twitter @MJaeger88.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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