When I was 17, I had my senior portrait taken at San Luis Obispo Creek in the Mission Plaza. Ive always been a cat lover, so when a friendly black Manx rubbed on my leg, I picked him up, and the moment was captured forever. In the early 1970s, there was a colony of feral cats living in San Luis Obispo Creek. At 17, I knew nothing about feral cats.
When my friend Stephen purchased a piece of property in Paso Robles recently, about 25 to 30 feral cats were living on the acreage. Stephen was at a loss as to what to do, so he asked for my help. I was nearly as ignorant about feral cats as I had been at 17. I assumed there were county services to deal with this sort of thing. I was wrong. Thankfully, there are volunteer organizations that can and do help.
Because of Stephens plight, in the past few months Ive unwittingly become an advocate for feral cats. With the help of Cathy Enns, founder of North County Paws Cause, Ive learned a lot about the animals.
A breeding pair of cats can be responsible for thousands of offspring within a couple of years. Females have as many as three litters a year and routinely give birth to five or more kittens. You dont have to be a math wizard to figure out that it can get exponential quite quickly.
Feral cats tend to live in colonies consisting of family members and others that happen along. Often, these animals are not friendly to people. There are many of these colonies living throughout San Luis Obispo County.
Trap-neuter-return (TNR) programs have proven effective in reducing populations of freeroaming cats in our county. Neutering is the best method to reduce rampant breeding, improve cats health, protect wildlife and save taxpayer dollars.
The number of feral cats living in San Luis Creek now is nearly zero due to a massive TNR effort that happened sometime after my senior portrait. Twenty years ago, more than 400 cats roamed the Cal Poly campus. Today, that number is around 30, thanks to the Cal Poly Cat Program.
Feline Network, an organization in South County, has succeeded in get ting cat colonies under control there. North County Paws Cause, veterinarians and Woods Humane Society are aiming to bring about similar results in the North County. At my friend Stephens property, weve managed to trap and neuter 16 cats so far.
On Sunday, North County Paws Cause, veterinarians, staff members and community volunteers will gather at two clinics to spay/neuter and vaccinate feral, stray and ranch cats in assembly-line fashion. This is the third annual North County Spay Day, and the goal is to alter more than 120 cats in just a few hours. In terms of numbers, its a terrific effort. But there are still many more feral cats out there.
Humans created the feral cat problem, so humans need to fix it. Mahatma Gandhi said, The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated.
If you have a pet, get it neutered, feed it, love it, take care of it. Its that simple.
Kristi Marinelly is a designer at The Tribune. Cathy Enns, North County Paws Cause founder, contributed to this article.
OTHER LOCAL CAT SERVICES
Cal Poly Cat Program Website: http://afd.calpoly.edu/facilities/cats Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: Edie Griffin-Shaw, 756-5220
Feline Network Website: http://felinenetwork.org Email: email@example.com Phone: 549-9CAT (549-9228)
HELP WITH SPAY DAY
North County Paws Cause seeks people willing to sponsor a surgery ($10 per cat on Spay Day), plus donations of towels/blankets/sheets, cat food and food for volunteers. Supplies can be brought to North County Animal Hospital at 825 24th St., Paso Robles, 238-5882; or Paso Petcare at 820 Sixth St., Paso Robles, 238-1091, before Sunday.
Donations can be made online at http://www.northcountypawscause.org or mailed to P.O. Box 1505, Templeton, 93465.
For more information, call Paws Cause at 226-8311.