By Connie Koch February 15, 2018 33
All it takes to start a cat colony is one person's cat that isn’t spayed or neutered. Many stray and free-roaming cats in even the nicest neighborhoods will find shelter in a backyard or storage shed and deliver a litter. Abandoned or neglected cats will colonize at fast food areas and parks where food can be found in dumpsters. It’s really sad.
Homeless cats can be found everywhere people live. Some places have only a few, like near the Starbucks on Lake Boulevard (five cats), to large colonies of maybe 100 or more cats along the river at Henderson Open Space.
Basically, homeless cats can be found everywhere from rest stops and trailer parks to the nicest neighborhoods all over the north state.
This is a problem created by people. You know where you won’t find domestic cats? In the wild where people don’t live.
For the cats’ safety, and to avoid cat dumping, it isn’t wise to give exact locations. But in the vicinity of the O’Brien rest stop 14 cats were killed by someone who fed them meatballs that contained antidepressants. This was done even though the cats were sterilized by volunteers and were fed and cared for by a caretaker.
I sat down with Blanca Jeffers and Pete Stiglich (aka Colonel Pete), two of the major principals (Blanca, President and Pete Chairman of the Board) in Shasta County's newly created Community Cat Care Coalition.
I have known Blanca for 10 years. She has been my go-to person every time a feral momma cat has shown up with her babies at the various places I have lived in Shasta County. Always ready to help get the cats trapped, neutered/spayed and released to a local colony of cats or as like the last two times, she took them back to the ranch where she works at socializing them and finding them forever homes. She has a tag line at the end of her emails that says, "I can't fix a human, but I can fix a cat."
Pete, an Air Force Colonel with 26 years of service, initially wasn't a cat person when he retired to Cottonwood. But when a hungry, cold and scared cat showed up at his Cottonwood ranch, his late mother took the cat in. That cat is still a resident of Pete's home, along with seven other cats that found their way into Pete's heart and home.
The Community Cat Care Coalition is a non-profit 501 (c) (3) organization, EIN 82-3090270. It is comprised of individuals and organizations committed to improving the lives of thousands of free-roaming community cats living in Shasta County. It has no paid staff. One hundred percent of the funds raised is devoted to community cat care within the county.
Pixie, Mouse & Flurry were found in a box left on the side of a road at only 3 weeks old. All three are available for adoption. Photo by Karen Marie Hansen.
Each day thousands of community cats struggle for survival. They face starvation, abuse, illness, predators and harsh weather. Two breeding cats, plus their kittens and kittens' offspring, if not sterilized, can produce 80 million cats in 10 years. The Community Cat Care Coalition exists solely to solve this growing problem.
The Community Cat Care Coalition hopes to spay and neuter all stray and/or homeless community cats as well as offer those services to cat owners who can't afford to sterilize their cats. Using the Trap-Neuter-Return strategy, cats are trapped, sterilized and returned to their colony, moved to safer locations or adopted out. Feedings, shelters, adoption and foster care are also provided.
Pete has an answer for those who wonder why he helped form the Community Cat Care Coalition.
"There are several independent groups that have made progress in small pockets," he said. "The idea to form a coalition is to achieve large scale progress, share ideas, expertise, resources, and fund-raise."
Blanca agreed. "The smaller groups have been doing this for 10 to 30 years in some instances, and some of the original people are getting tired," she said. "Yet, there is a tremendous need to control the population of homeless cats."
Sugar, Domino and Tazz were dumped next to an office in downtown Redding. All three are available for adoption. Photo by Karen Marie Hansen.
I asked if any of the local veterinary clinics were helping. Blanca said currently they are working with one doctor who has stepped up to help, and she and Pete hope that more veterinarians will eventually get involved.
“It would make sense, now that the Coalition is a non-profit, that the veterinarians could donate one day to help spay and neuter and write it off as tax donation," Blanca said. "If we could get each veterinary clinic in the county to donate an allotted set of hours one day a week, we could get so many more community cats spayed and neutered, especially now during the kitty season.”
Pete and Blanca plan to visit local veterinary offices to brief them on the Coalition, and see what assistance they can provide.
As Pete says, “Community cats are a community problem.”
The Coalition is also in the process of working with county officials to update the Animal Control Ordinance. Presently, it is silent with regard to addressing community cats. A draft amendment has been provided to the Shasta County Sheriff’s Department that, among other things, requires trapped feral cats be sterilized and returned to their colonies, rather than being put down. The draft also recommends a fund be established to be used to offset the cost of sterilizing community cats. Hopefully, county supervisors will approve this ordinance update shortly.
I asked what their critical needs are at this time and they both had the same answer: funding and volunteers, both of which are needed so the Coalition can succeed. Volunteers are needed to help with colony identification, trapping, transportation, feeding, sheltering, adoption, foster care and veterinary assistance. Grants, special fundraising events and donations cover the cost of supplies and veterinary services.
We hope the citizens of Shasta County will join our efforts and help us all make a difference in the out of control homeless cat population. Together , we can transform our communities into a model for the ethical and humane treatment of our feline community members.
Connie Koch was raised in Santa Barbara. She moved to Redding after high school, traveled to and lived in other places, and finally returned to Redding in 2009.
She is currently semi-retired, and works at various part-time jobs, including private in-home care for the elderly.
In her spare time, Connie is a gifted artist who specializes in making all sizes of mirrored mosaic sculptures.
Connie is also the "mother" of two rescue cats, each of whom showed up at her doorstep at separate times, and have yet to accept each other.