Feline advocates, already concerned because the North Hempstead animal shelter does not accept cats, said they were surprised this month when the town hired an exterminating company to spay and neuter local stray and feral cats.

Arrow Exterminators of Lynbrook will trap cats, take the felines to local veterinarians for spaying or neutering, and return the animals to their colonies, said town spokesman Collin Nash. The town will pay Arrow $10,000, he said.

"Under no circumstances will any cats be euthanized," Nash said.

But local cat advocates say they worry that a company that primarily handles insect and rodent pest control will not have the training to deal with feral and stray felines.

"This is the first time I have ever heard of an exterminator doing . . . [trap, neuter, return]," said Joan Phillips, president of the Animal Lovers League in Glen Cove and a member of the Nassau County feral cat committee. "People were terribly concerned."

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Dr. Gay Senk, a veterinarian who oversees the Farmingdale-based Long Island Cat Program, said she would like more details about the group's trap, neuter, return program.

"There needs to be some accountability with an exterminator company to reassure everybody," she said. "I would like to see it succeed, but we are anxious about the logistics of how they're going to do it."

Officials from Arrow Exterminators said the company's trap, neuter, return program, established during the past year, is run through Arrow Evergreen Services, a division focused on solving pest problems in an environmentally friendly way.

Company officials said Arrow employees have more than two decades' experience trapping wildlife and will not exterminate felines.

"Our job is to humanely trap them, transport them, see that they're neutered and return them, and in no way to harm them," said Jackie Grabin, the company's co-president. "We are, believe me, not in the business of hurting cats."