"Ma'aser Kesafim" for cat food

Q: My neighborhood (in Israel) has so many cats. They recently changed the garbage cans and the cats cannot open them. They are literally starving. It is permissible for me to buy them food with "ma'aser" money?
A: The huge amount of cats in Israel is a known problem. They are also a great benefit since – in their merit – there are hardly any mice and snakes. At the same time, we need to solve this problem and reduce their population by spreading chemicals in their food which will prevent reproduction. But "ma'aser" money is for the poor: first for poor Jews, then for non-Jews and only then for animals. Mercy for animals is certainly important but we must first be merciful to people. The proper order of concern is first people and then the cats.