Neighborhood flooded with feral felines

Residents work to get stray kitties off streets

By Laura McVicker, Columbian staff writer

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Peg O’Donnell found Zoe, an orange, long-haired Persian tabby, hiding in her neighbor’s yard. One of her paws was crushed.

After Zoe was treated, neutered and screened for diseases, she went home with O’Donnell in 2009.

This winter, another stray showed up on the Northwest neighborhood resident’s doorstep, horribly skinny and starving.

O’Donnell, again, couldn’t say no. That’s at least until she can find him -- a striped tabby named Riley -- a permanent home.

The Vancouver woman says she has a heart for taking in strays and feeding feral cats, as well as ensuring they are neutered so they don’t spread diseases. The issue of stray and feral cats has emerged as a problem in her neighborhood recently after a few neighbors complained about cats loitering in their yard.

“I really think the recession is making it worse,” O’Donnell said of the increasing cat population in her neighborhood.

She suspects more renters, unable to afford pet deposit fees, are abandoning their cats, causing the one-time pets to roam neighborhoods and reproduce feral, or wild, cats.

The Humane Society for Southwest Washington took in 570 feral cats last year, said Lisa Feder, the humane society’s director of operations. That number was actually lower than previous years, she added.

But that’s not to say O’Donnell’s theory isn’t true. “I really haven’t figured out why this is,” Feder said. “That could just be a function of people not bringing them in.”

Feder said she does still see people bring in feral cats to the shelter -- they are folks who say the cats like to feast on their neighborhood birds. Residents also tend to worry they will spread diseases.

Shared frustration

That’s the frustration for O’Donnell and her fellow neighborhood cat lover, Lori Dietz. The two have noticed several feral and stray cats roaming their neighborhood at certain times of the day. O’Donnell said cat lovers tend to notice them more, while other neighbors are either unaware of the kitties or get annoyed when they come in their yard and urinate.

“Lori and I are tired of being the only ones feeding them,” O’Donnell said with a laugh. “Anyone who feeds and cares for them, they’ll love. They’re very adaptable.”

O’Donnell, who lives on Northwest 49th Street, has started placing dry kibble outside the front of her house for the hungry cats, as has Dietz. Dietz said that at one point she had four feral cats frequenting her yard. Through a veterinarian connection, was able to catch all four. Her intention was to ensure they would be neutered and screened for diseases.

Dietz said by email that since she already has four indoor cats, she couldn’t keep the captured cats.

“The whole experience of getting them caught was just as traumatizing for me as it was for them since I had to stop feeding them to make them hungry enough to go into the cage,” she said. “All of these cats (with the exception of one that had to be put down) were released back into the neighborhood.”

The three cats do come back to her house, and she said one of them, Simon, comes in her house occasionally and plays with her other cats. She hopes to find the strays a permanent address.

“They all deserve to be loved and have a home,” she said.

Laura McVicker: www.twitter.com/col_courts;www.facebook.com/reportermcvicker;laura.mcvicker@columbian.com; 360-735-4516.