|Purred: Sun Jun 8, '08 3:01am PST |
|June 08, 2008
Cat colonies find loving supporters
By MARK I. JOHNSON
EDGEWATER -- Terry Kennington loves animals.
"I was raised on a farm," the Edgewater resident explains.
That may also explain why Kennington, who works as a clerk at the Trading Post convenience store and gas station at the intersection of Interstate 95 and State Road 442, for the past year has been caring for a colony of stray cats that hang out behind the building.
"Right now I have nine babies and five big ones," Kennington said. She feeds them daily, using money from her own pocket or from private donations.
The issue of whether people should assist such stray animals has long been debated, but for Kennington there is no question about what is the right choice.
"I like cats," she said. "I can't see them left out in the cold, the heat or not being fed."
The Humane Society of the United States estimates there are between 10 million and 50 million feral cats across the country, according to feral cat program manager Nancy Peterson. And without some care, in the form of feeding efforts such as Kennington's, 75 percent of their offspring would not survive to adulthood, she said.
That is why the organization promotes efforts to care for these animals in the wild through not only feeding but also trapping, neutering or spaying and then releasing them, she said.
"If a cat is truly feral, it can't be adopted," Peterson said. "And if they are taken to a shelter, they are normally euthanized."
Kennington said she has occasionally been able to tame the traditionally wild felines to the point where they could be adopted. She tries to help reduce the population of strays, which many cats find themselves being through no fault of their own.
"It is not their fault, it is our fault," she said. "People want (a cat) then they don't want them and they get left behind. That is how we get feral cats."
Kennington is not alone in her passion. Shira Russo has been caring for a similar cat colony behind the Kmart Shopping Plaza on State Road 44 in New Smyrna Beach.
The 45-year-old cat lover has been supplying a breakfast of canned and wet food to the group since February and has captured three kittens, which she eventually hopes to adopt out.
But not everyone is so accepting of these creatures. Russo said she suspects someone recently poisoned a number of the cats. About a week ago, she discovered most of the colony had disappeared and "the smell of death was in the air."
"There were 12 cats out there and now we can find only two alive," she said pointing to faded photographs of some of the missing felines tacked to a nearby telephone pole.
She reported her suspicions to local police, but a preliminary investigation uncovered no dead animals and there was no physical evidence of deliberate poisoning, according to New Smyrna Beach Neighborhood Resource Officer Chris Norman.
Norman said he plans to investigate further, however right now all he has is hearsay accusations and he is not optimistic about getting much more.
That doesn't sit well with Russo.
"I did not get the response I wanted from someone who is supposed to be on the animals' side," she said.
And it won't stop her efforts. On a recent morning she was greeted by a wary encounter with one of her remaining cats.
"That's Bugsy; she is one of my mommies," Russo said as she watched the wide-eyed feline setting in for a meal.
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