Paws Cause in North County helps cats live fine lives

bmorem@thetribunenews.comFebruary 6, 2013 

Here’s a statistic that doesn’t pass the cat’s pajamas sniff test: The police department in Central Falls, R.I., sent out a press release on Jan. 28 that said one male cat can father 420,000 kittens in five years. Hmmm.

Let’s do the math: Five years is roughly 1,830 days; a Tom would have to paws for duty 57 times daily with various members of his harem in order to hit such numbers. No pussy-footin’ around for this boy.

So where did the number come from? First reference was in a 1989 news release from the Humane Society of the United States and it’s been used repeatedly, and erroneously, by various organizations since then.

I make note of this bit of hyperbole in light of the fact that unsprayed and un-neutered cats — especially if they’re domesticated outdoor cats or feral felines — live miserable lives. That’s where friends of felines in the form of such outfits as Paws Cause in the North County come into play.

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In the world of pets, there’s little ambivalence when it comes to cats: It’s a simple maxim that people either like them or dislike them; there doesn’t seem to be much of a middle ground between those poles.

To those who love cats, no feline deserves to be treated as just another disposable commodity in a throwaway culture.

On the other side of the coin, there are those who cite statistics that cats — both domestic and feral — are four-legged killing machines that slash their way through the animal kingdom, leaving bird and rodent entrails on welcome mats as proof of their prowess. Both sides have their points. It’s estimated that more than 4 million cats are euthanized in animal shelters every year, unwitting pawns of pet owners who are moving, cutting costs or have a landlord who doesn’t allow pets, according to the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy.

On the flip side, a recent study by the University of Georgia, in league with National Geographic, has found that cats both domestic and feral may be killing as many as 4 billion animals each year.

That’s where Paws Cause, founded by Templeton resident Cathy Enns in 2010, comes into play. The group — through generous donations from the community, and veterinarians who cut their costs for spay/neutering — helped 237 cats get snipped and/or placed in subsequent homes in its first year. In its second year, “We’ve helped more than 1,000 North County cats lead healthier, happier lives,” says Enns. “Along with our spay and neuter activities, we have found homes and barns for more than 725 cats along the way.”

And that may be the key: Finding homes and putting cats to work — seriously.

It’s not a new concept. Bookstores, libraries and shops have a long history of having a cat lounging around (generally on a well-padded perch in a sunny location) that keeps mice at bay. Paws Cause has taken that concept forward. “Local retailers, wineries and ranchers are finding out how rewarding it can be to give them a home and a job to do,” says Enns.

Zan Overturf, owner of The Tree Man Nursery in Paso Robles, partners with Paws Cause for sterilized cats to patrol its acres of plants to put a check on rodents.

“Altering cats keeps them healthy and well-behaved,” Overturf says.

On another level, Sculpterra Winery and Sculpture Garden on the east side of Paso Robles not only celebrates cats in garden sculptures, but has cats that mingle with guests on the back patio, says Tom Allen of Sculpterra.

In addition to adding ambiance, the cats keep rodents down and even go after a rancher’s bane, ground squirrels.

MC Cutting Horses, a Templeton ranch that boards and trains champion horses, used Paws Cause’s help in trapping an explosion of cats and steering them toward spay/neuter services.

“I get a huge sense of accomplishment when I see our cats at work,” says rancher Patty Cromer.

Enns says “apartment complexes, sports facilities, motels, wineries, restaurants and other organizations have taken advantage of our services,” and she and her volunteer staff are looking for more businesses interested in providing a home for cats that “will work for food.”

In the interim, The Tree Man’s Overturf has a new feral cat that he will be getting fixed with the help of Paws Cause on Spay Day in North County on Feb. 24.

“He’ll have surgery,” says Overturf, “then recover overnight, and then go to work.”

“We have healthy cats ready for your barn, shed or garage,” says Enns. “They have been spayed or neutered and all they need to be happy is food and shelter.”

Interested? Call 805-226-8311 or email northcountypawscause@gmail.com for information.

Bill Morem can be reached at bmorem@thetribunenews.com or at 781-7852.

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