October 1, 2002
Woman fights to save shy feral cats By KAREN A. DAVIS
Sentinel staff writer
During the past eight years, Susie Stevens has fed, trapped and found homes for more than 90 feral cats near Seacliff State Beach.
The 53-year-old cat lover and self-described psychic has become a champion of the people-shy cats, placing them into humane traps and taking them to sympathetic local veterinarians such as Dr. George Hall of Aptos.
After the cats are spayed or neutered, many find laps to warm with owners willing to take time to help them over their shyness. Stevens often pays for the procedures. She sold her Mercedes a few years ago to pay veterinary bills.
"These cats aren�t responsible for this," Stevens said Monday. Rather, most of the cats are victims of irresponsible owners.
Stevens estimates there are 30 feral cats at the beach. She says state park officials recently have hindered her rescue efforts, asking her to stop feeding the cats and threatening to confiscate pet food.
Park officials, meanwhile, admit they have plans to control the feral cat population at the beach, which they say tops 150. The animals are "efficient hunters" that threaten native wildlife, according to Ralph Fairfield, state park supervisor.
"They hunt and kill native wildlife, like birds and lizards, which in turn reduces the number of predators like owls and hawks," Fairfield said. "It�s also not healthy for the cats, because they are wild and uncared for and susceptible to disease and illness."
Though veterinarians say many of the animals are healthy and disease free.
Park officials have plans to begin trapping and transporting the cats to local animal agencies, such as the County Animal Services Agency where if they are not adopted, they would be euthanized.
To Stevens, that would simply be murder. While feral kittens might be adoptable, older cats are considered unadoptable and are routinely euthanized. That would be most unfortunate, when such animals can "end up being wonderful, loving and adventurous pets," according to Judy Hall, Dr. George Hall�s wife. The Halls are proud parents to several of the formerly feral cats.
"That cat may be dead soon," said Stevens, looking at a 6-month-old Siamese kitten, one of about a half-dozen feral cats grooming itself in the sun at the beach Monday.
"Susie (Stevens) has the best intentions ... and she has gone to great expense for these animals," Fairfield said. "But she is unwittingly and unfortunately adding to the problem."
National Feral Cat Day is Oct. 16. The local Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, along with the Watsonville Animal Shelter and Project Purr will be working to educate people on what it means to be a responsible feral cat caregiver, according to SPCA spokesman Will Anzenberger.
Tapping, neutering and returning feral cats to their previous habitat has been successful in controlling the population in San Francisco�s Golden Gate Park.
Removing the cats would create a void and a food source for more cats to move into an area. However, studies have shown keeping a population static, but sterile, prevents additional cats from entering an area.
"People have said feral cats never socialize, but that�s not true," she said. "Love conquers all if we try. If we kill them, we�ll never know."
To provide a home for a cat, call 475-7290 or 588-9801.
Contact Karen A. Davis at kdavis@...
"Live in peace with the animals. Animals bring love to our hearts, and warmth to our souls."
"He who is cruel to animals becomes hard also in his dealings with men. We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals." Immanuel Kant
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