All About Marie

Animal Files columnist of the Orange County Register from 1992-2016; Emmy Award winning producer of Educational Television Programming; Host of "The Pet Place Radio Show" heard world-wide at; click the player below to listen. Producer/Director/Editor/Co-host of "The Pet Place TV Show" during the 19 years it ran on KDOC TV in Los Angeles and Orange Counties; Wife, Mother of five kids, Grandmother of two baby boys and one baby girl, and pet parent of two cats, one dog, many fish, and a cockatoo.

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Thursday, March 6, 2014

Landlord Thinks Feral Cats Are Mine

Dear Marie,
I just have to share this. I've had a bad, sad 3 weeks and all because I made the mistake of trying to be kind to animals. A mommy cat brought her 6 beautiful kittens into my yard at 6 weeks old. I called all the pet rescue organizations and spent hours researching on-line.  The only help I received was a lecture that it was up to me to socialize the kittens and make a difference in their lives. (As well as a graphic picture of garbage cans full of dead cats on their website.) I live in a strict "no pets" apartment complex and was taking a big
chance just letting them stay in my yard. After two weeks of limited success in "socializing" the kittens, I realized it was getting too late. I had to battle the flies and ants and be responsible for all the clean up. In addition, they were starting to venture into my neighbors' yards. I realized there was no other option but to call the county pet shelter ... but the only problem was they didn't rent cages and the phone numbers of businesses they gave me to rent cages didn't even bother to call back.

Finally, out of desperation - when the landlord suddenly appeared at my gate, I explained the situation to him and asked for some help. His only concern was getting the cats "off the premises." He did buy a cage for me to use - gotta give him credit for that. I caught the mother cat first and took her down to the county shelter on Thursday night. On Friday morning I put out some food for the kittens, as my husband and I had to be away
for a few hours. While we were gone, the landlord came and peeked over the fence.When he saw that I was feeding the kittens, he became incensed. I received a warning from the manager to "just get rid of them." I had to make four more sad trips to the pet shelter. The kittens were terrorized and I'm sure they will all be put to sleep. One escaped during the cage transfer at the shelter and will probably die a horrible death; another had his hind leg seriously mangled when it go stuck in the cage wire. I know I did the right thing by taking responsibility and trying to help but I will never do it again. From now on I'll just turn a blind eye to animal suffering, like everyone else does.
Garden Grove, CA

Dear Delores,
I appreciate your sharing of this story but I hope you will never turn a blind eye to animal suffering. You are a kind person and this experience must not change you. You did the best you could, given the circumstances, and you have actually prevented a lot more animal suffering than you might think. Had those six beautiful kittens remained loose in the area they would have become completely feral, disease ridden, regularly injured in cat fights, and more important – they would have become able to reproduce in just a few more months – leading to more kittens, and more kittens, and more kittens. I think you get the idea. You definitely did
the right thing.

In addition, many shelters have volunteers that will work with young, feral kittens and socialize them so that they can be adopted in a few weeks.  (After being spayed or neutered and vaccinated.) So they will have a chance at a good life.

You have also brought up a very significant point. We as a society of laws do not give cats the same protection we give to dogs. Animal Control agencies cannot pick up stray cats unless a private property owner has already physically captured the animals and has placed them into a container that he or she does not want back. Or, an individual, such as you, can make the effort to capture stray cats and transport the trapped animals to the shelter, and wait for the device to be emptied and returned. This is not something that
most people are willing to do for a variety of reasons, many of which have to do with the safety of all parties involved. I was sorry to learn that one of the kittens from your experience was injured and another escaped.

Your landlord, not you, should have taken on the responsibility of trapping the cats and taking them to the shelter, especially after he was advised that you were not their owner. If anything like this happens in the future, be sure to let him know. It sounds as though he was happy to pass off his duty by making you feel as though you had done something wrong. You did not.

Technically, the only animal sheltering/rescue facility that can legally take in cats such as these is the animal control authority that serves your city. That is why the other humane organizations appeared to give you the run-around. They can only accept animals that are relinquished by owners and can never legally accept strays.

I know it must be hard to think of getting involved after such a dreadful experience; but  what has happened should motivate you more than ever to try and make a change. Write to your County Supervisor serving your district and ask this person to consider authoring an ordinance that requires cats to be confined and licensed in the same manner as dogs. Yes - I said it....license cats!  I know a lot of people don't like that idea, but the bottom line is this...98% of cats that enter animal shelters have no ID whatsoever and their owners are never located.  On the flip side of the coin, about half of all dogs (who are required to be licensed) that are impounded are reunited with their families.  It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that licensing is a tool to get animals back home.

If such rules were in place, cats could be better protected as animal control would pick up ALL abandoned or stray animals in an effort to end suffering on the streets.

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