'I feel harassed by the cats': Feral colony 'out of control' in Weed neighborhood

Mike Meyer
Mt. Shasta Area Newspapers
Sammy was once feral, but is now a friendly social kitten. She is about nine or 10 months old and needs a quiet indoor-only home. She is still shy until she knows someone; then she is very cuddly. She does fine with other gentle cats and gentle dogs with a slow introduction. No young children, but older respectful youths would be fine. Raining Cats N Dogs adoptions include spay/neuter services, vaccines and vetting as needed. Call 232-6299. Go to https://rainingcatsndogs.rescuegroups.org/.

A colony of feral cats living under decks and in woodsheds of a Jackson Street neighborhood has grown into such a problem that neighbors banded together and last Thursday night addressed the situation before the Weed City Council during its monthly meeting.

The cats are not being spayed or neutered, neighbors say, even after three years, but are being fed daily by volunteers of a local nonprofit rescue organization.

“They’re feeding them sometimes twice a day. There are 40 or 50 cats, numerous pregnant cats. When the feeding happens after three or four in the afternoon, the raccoon show up. It’s out of control,” Virginia Payne of Jackson Street told the council.

“(Volunteers) are not spaying and neutering them like they say on the website. But they keep feeding them and have for three years now. I feel harassed by the cats,” Payne said.

Payne and neighbor Karen Keating, and several other neighbors whose letters were submitted to the council, are hoping the city will pass a feral cat feeder-station ordinance. A “feeder station” is the location where volunteers leave food for cats.

“I understand people think they’re helping these poor kitties, but the cats are suffering,” said Keating.

In an interview Friday, the clearly distressed Keating and Payne described effects of cat feeding in the alley behind their houses.

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“It’s agonizing. To wake up at night and listen to the sound of the kitties being torn apart by raccoon ... It’s not fair to the cats – they’ve become dependent on humans yet they have to live outdoors all winter, and they’re being torn up by wildlife.

“What they’re doing is not being nice to the kitties, it’s not. It’s cruel,” Keating told the council.

Nicole Dwork, a spokesperson for Saving Shasta Cats, the non-profit whose volunteers feed the cats on Jackson, said by phone on Saturday that her group’s goal is to eliminate suffering, not exacerbate it.

Four cats wait to be spay or neutered Wednesday April 14, 2021, during the "Big Fix" at the VOCAL, Voices of Change Animal League. The event ran from from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m, with four local animal services VOCAL, Humane Society of Marion County, Marion County Animal Services and Sheltering Hands, sponsored the event. They spay and neutered 300 cats. VOCAL spay and neutered 180 cats while Sheltering Hands spay and neutered 165 feral cats. "Three hundred is the goal for today," Linda Norman, president of VOCAL said Wednesday. [Doug Engle/Ocala Star Banner]2021

“The late feedings are a surprise to me,” Dwork said. “If that’s the case, I’m sorry because it’s not how we operate. It’s disappointing.”

Dwork said the organization has a plan to “set traps and capture the cats, in about three months, get them spayed and neutered and then take them to a sanctuary.

“But it’s a pandemic out there right now, because of a shortage of veterinarians in the county. People are waiting six months to fix their pets.”

Dwork said feral cats are on their own. “People move out and leave their cat behind. People think cats can fend for themselves, but they really can’t.”

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The ordinance for feral cat feeder stations envisioned by the Jackson Street neighbors includes requiring a permit, getting neighborhood permission, no feeding after 3 p.m., relocating feeder stations after 4-6 weeks and forbidding trespassing by volunteers on private property without consent.

City council members were sympathetic to the plight of the Jackson Street neighbors, summed up by Mayor Susan Tavalero: “It would make me a crazy woman.”

The council directed staff to look into related city ordinances to see how the situation can be addressed.