Guilford County Commissioner James Upchurch recently put a new concern on the county’s radar – an alarming number of cats running free in the county.

“We have a feral cat problem,” he stated at a meeting of the Board of Commissioners in July.

Upchurch said the major cause was the return of people to work after two years of COVID-19.

“It started when a lot of people adopted animals during the pandemic when they were home – and now they have to let them go, unfortunately,” Upchurch said.

Pandemics are bad for humans but great for pets: In April of 2020, during the height of concern at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, former Guilford County Manager Marty Lawing informed the Board of Commissioners that there were only six animals left at the county’s animal shelter – three cats and three dogs.

At some times in the past, the county’s shelter has housed over 500 animals.

Upchurch said that, with people returning to work, many were apparently just letting their cats loose.

He said he had met with a local community animal group about the feral cat problem and there were a very concerning number of cats running loose around the county.

“The animal shelter can only take in so many,” Upchurch noted.

He said he had reached out to Guilford County Animal Services Director Jorge Ortega to express his concern and see what could be done.

Upchurch said that Animal Services and community groups were meeting to find ways to address the problem.