Woman works to save a few wild cats

PETS AT HOME

December 21, 1991|By Gina Spadafori | Gina Spadafori,McClatchy News Service

Those who love animals -- and those who don't -- agree that wild cats are a disturbing problem, but there the agreement stops.

Should feral felines be fed, increasing their odds of survival but allowing them to breed?

Should they be neutered and re-released, to live as best they can for as long as they're able?

Should they be euthanized, sparing them a painful death by accident or starvation?

Sharon Kerr doesn't pretend to have the answer, but she likes to think she has a piece of it. At the very least, the Sacramento-area resident's efforts are making a difference to a handful of beautiful wild cats that are well on their way to domestication.

"We've always loved animals in my family," said Ms. Kerr. "We're the kind of people who find a stray, intending to take it to the pound and keep it for, oh, 12 or 13 years."

Ms. Kerr knew the cat population in a nearby park was nearing a crisis level, and read that the park district was considering some control measures. She also knew the life of a domesticated cat gone wild is a difficult one, especially in a public park.

"There was one man who was seen training his hounds on the wild cats," she said. "They'd tree a cat and he'd climb up and throw it down to them."

Another cat, a wild one that had adopted her, was killed by a bow hunter. She knew others were dying of starvation and disease, and she decided to get involved.

Along with a couple other like-minded volunteers, Ms. Kerr has spent the last couple of months socializing the kittens born to the wild ones. Housed in a large, clean enclosure in a barn, the half-grown cats are well fed and cared for, but mostly they're well socialized, to the extent that almost all start purring at a stranger's caress.

There's Tiger, a tabby-striped male with a lush coat, and Tuxedo and Isis, gray littermates with outgoing personalities; Junior, who loves to chase feathers, and Vincent, whose round face and long, prominent nose gives him an almost human appearance.

Like most animal-care volunteers, Ms. Kerr wants the details of her work kept private, fearing if word got out of caring cat-lovers at a certain location, irresponsible pet-owners would be dropping litters off by the score. She works with what she has, and she does the best she can.

"I don't know much about fund-raising and getting help, but I tell you, I'm learning fast," said Ms. Kerr. "We've had food donated, and had help with the spaying. The SPCA lent us cages to transport the cats to the vet's."

The payoff was scheduled earlier this month, a local cat group let the volunteers set up in the lobby of the club's annual show. Ms. Kerr hoped to find caring adopters among the spectators, as well as to pick up a little bit of help to continue her new-found work.

It's not an answer, but Sharon Kerr hopes it's a start.

Ms. Spadafori is a newspaper reporter and an animal obedience trainer in Sacramento, Calif. Questions about pets may be sent to her c/o Saturday, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278

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