Feles Non Gratae? Future Uncertain for LBCC Colony Cats

 

Cats in two small colonies on the Long Beach City College (LBCC) campuses face expulsion unless administration and community cat advocates can mediate an agreement for their continued presence.

“We’ve had a number of complaints from faculty and staff related to the situation that the feral cats have created,” said Rose DelGaudio, LBCC’s vice president of human resources. “We need to find a way to mitigate these issues.”

According to DelGaudio, complaints had been filed regarding fleas, allergies and sanitary conditions compromised by the elimination of urine and feces that was attributed to the colonies’ cats. At a Nov. 18 meeting at which some hackles were raised, DelGaudio and two other LBCC administrators met with several members of the college community and the community at large to attempt to find a solution that would satisfy the administration’s health concerns as well as first and foremost be a humane consideration for the cats.

“LBCC is following Long Beach Animal Care Service guidelines and working with interested parties to develop a plan to safely trap and relocate the existing feral cat population…to ensure the safety and well-being of these feral cats during the relocation process,” said Cindy Vyskocil, LBCC’s associate vice president of human resources. “As has been reported by the media, the population of skunks, raccoons and coyotes in Long Beach has sharply increased in the past year, and feral cats are known to attract these animals, which causes heightened concern for public safety.”

Attendees also included Ted Stevens, manager of Long Beach Animal Care Services Long Beach Animal Care Services, an attorney hired by the feline advocates; representatives from several animal welfare organizations that included Best Friends Animal Society, Stray Cat Alliance and the Long Beach Spay & Neuter Foundation; a student-body member; a campus nurse practitioner; and community-cat volunteers from both on and off campus. Donna Prindle, a professor of physical education at LBCC and one of the campus volutneers, is noted for her spay/neuter and adoption program that reduced the dumped-domestic-rabbit population from around 300 to zero a handful of years ago and has been heading a similar attempt with the college community cats.

Community cat is an umbrella term that comprises strays, abandoned cats, cats that walk up to people’s doors and get fed, and the ferals in the colonies (see Long Beach Animal Care Services’ Community Cats page.) Ferals are domestic pets that have not been socialized to humans and therefore aren’t adoptable, although kittens born to feral mothers may be adopted if fostered early enough (see Virtually Pets below). According to Dr. Julie Levy, DVM and professor of Shelter Medicine with Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program at the University of Florida, most college campuses have free-roaming cats. Management of these and other colonies isn’t a simple process of leaving food out and walking away. It’s a deal of work, and it’s all volunteer. Besides buying food and feeding the cats, colony management volunteers clean the area, get a vet out to inoculate the cats, help with trap/neuter/release (TNR) and ear tipping (a procedure done under anesthesia that involves removing the upper centimeter of a cat’s right ear, and the universal symbol that shows that a feral cat has been fixed), make daily welfare checks that include attention and affection, and adopt out any adoptable cats. A small colony of aging neutered and vaccinated cats, she said, is much safer than an unmanaged colony with a high turnover.

ear tip

Scrappy, a community cat in a colony in L.A., has a tipped right ear. Courtesy of Stray Cat Alliance

“We’d like to wind up with no cats on the campus, which is what TNR is [ultimately] all about,” Prindle said.

Anna Wong of Stray Cat Alliance, an organization that educates and empowers the community to actively participate in maintaining healthy cat colonies, described the vacuum effect, which feral cat experts say occurs when a colony is removed.

“When you remove these cats from the campus, you’re going to have more cats move in who are not neutered, who are not spayed, unvaccinated cats, babies—cats that haven’t been maintained in a colony bringing in mange—all this stuff you don’t want on campus,” she said. “By allowing these cats to stay, you’re preventing these problems because these ladies are actively maintaining this colony. If an animal is sick, they’re removing that animal. If an animal comes in without an ear tip, they’ll spay or neuter that animal. If an animal is pregnant, they’ll remove her, allowing that cat to have her babies and adopting them out so that they don’t come back to this campus.”

Prindle and her volunteers have been managing the colonies in the proper fashion since two summers ago, and the results compare favorably to the Rabbit Population Control Experiment she and another staff member had organized. There were 50 to 75 adult cats on the LAC Carson campus and 75 to 90 on the PCC campus on Pacific Coast Highway. This number doesn’t include over 100 kittens that have been fostered or adopted, or the cats who wander onto the campus from the surrounding neighborhoods. Today, the total number in both campus colonies is around 30.

“With historic low numbers in rabbits and cats, why does the college believe they need to act on a complaint now?” Prindle asked.

Prindle was referencing a recent campuswide memo that was sent out by the administration that warned employees and students away from feeding the cats because of filed health complaints.

At about this time, Prindle said, the special feeders that the college had built to accommodate the cats had been vandalized on the PCC campus and around $1,000 of equipment needed to manage the colony has been stolen over the past few weeks. Several of the donation cans for the project had also disappeared over time.

Some of the volunteers who helped with the colony are also college employees, and they expressed uneasiness at the meeting over being able to continue to help. One student said that administrators had allegedly spoken “abrasively to students who have shown an interest in getting involved with caring for the cats” and that students themselves were fearful of getting involved in helping the cats because they believed that they’d be expelled.

Vyskocil said that indeed, employees were not allowed to touch the feeders and that there was a worker’s compensation claim against the college for feeding the cats.

“We have an interest in maintaining a clean and healthy environment,” Vyskocil said. “The whole area smells like urine, especially when the sun comes out. What we’re seeing are major complaints, and they’re about physical issues—a woman going into the area is required to take Benadryl, cat hair on people and a respiratory infection relating to that, and digging in the area where there are feces.”

When pressed by one of the campus volunteers, Vyskocil said that what the employees did on their own time didn’t fall under that umbrella.

There was doubt and disagreement from the cat advocates about the feeding and health issues. Tina Cassar, RN, FNP and a nurse practitioner at the college who helps feed the cats said that cat allergies are outdoor and not indoor conditions. “I’m allergic to cats myself, and when I go out and feed them, I have no problems,” she said. “I’m also a flea magnet, and I’ve gotten 10 fleabites when I worked in the AA building and there were fleas because of the mice. Everyone has the idea that whenever there are fleas around, it’s the cats. There are other animals—dogs, wildlife, etc.—I’ve had students come in to my clinic; they’re lying on the grass over there. And I’ve never had one person come in to complain about [cat] allergy.”

Toxoplasmosis, Cassar added, affects mainly pregnant women; Levy stated that cats shed toxoplasmosis organisms only twice in their lives and become immune to it thereafter. The colony volunteers suggested that the excrement may not all be cat related but come from wildlife; they maintained that they clean the cat area regularly and will continue to do so, no matter who or what left the droppings. Wong also presented an ultrasonic device called Cat Stop and a sensor-activated device called Cat Scarecrow that she cited as good nonlethal methods to keep cats and other unwanted animals away from an area.

Ultimately, the administration hammered out a 90-day assessment period for the colony managers and advocates to work out a schedule of feeding and cleaning to assess the needs of the colony and recruit volunteers. Prindle will also work with Timothy Wootton, the Facilities, Maintenance and Operations Department manager, to locate a place to relocate the PCC colony cats, one that is secure and that won’t have them running back home across busy streets. The act of agreeing on a feeding schedule for the assessment period was more contentious since it appeared to be the fulcrum around which the health issues revolved.

“What’s drawing the wildlife to our campus—it’s the feeders,” Vyskocil said. “And every report I’ve read says that wildlife are attracted to food. Remind them to feed only for 30 minutes a day and then remove them.”

Wong retorted that 30 minutes wasn’t a sufficient time to get the cats adjusted to a schedule and suggested starting with four hours to start training the cats. “What I suggest is, we start with a window of time. It has to be sufficiently ample—30 minutes won’t work. That’s not going to get these animals on a feeding schedule. This can’t be done overnight—this is a process.

“We cannot be so cut and dried when we’re dealing with living things.”

You are too wild a spirit to live inside with me
You need my protection, but you still need to be free
To neuter and to nurture, that is my responsibility.
~S.L. Smith, “A Prayer for All the Street Kitties”

Virtually Pets

Here are six potential forever companions that had more than humble origins: found in rusty machinery parts, left in litters in buckets—all on the PCC campuses. The pictures below show the potential they had that was obvious only to their rescuers. Check them out at Forever Home Pet Rescue South by clicking the links on the links on the right of the page or visit them and the other good cats and dogs at Unleashed by Petco, 6331 E. Spring St. at Palo Verde Avenue, on Fridays from noon to 4:00PM and Saturdays and Sundays from 11:00AM to 3:00PM.

Burton 9 weeks

Burton, 9 weeks

 Tom 10 weeks

Tom, 10 weeks (Tom and Burton would make a good set if you admire the Sydney Opera House

Zeppelin 9 weeks

Zeppelin, 9 weeks

 Rem and Ryuk 18 mo

Rem and Ryuk, 18-month-old twins

 Dr. HOrrible 2 years

Dr. Horrible, 2 years

KIbble

Humane Education

Pet Projects

Operation Santa Paws, Various Shelters December 1 – 20

Would you all be able to help collect dog and cat toys, treats, food or supplies to donate to the local animal shelters with our Operation Santa Paws program? If so, let [email protected] know the public drop-off places you’ll be hosting (names, addresses, phone numbers); we can include that on the website. Then, for the Long Beach/OC area, we’ll gather all the collected goodies on the morning of Saturday, Dec. 20 in Long Beach and distribute them all to the pets in area shelters and rescues. You can also take your collected goods directly to your favorite shelter or rescue! For more information, click here.

Low-Cost Pet Vaccination Clinics

December 6

Signal Hill Park
2175 Cherry Ave., 
Signal Hill, 
10:00AM – 11:30AM 

Stearns Champion Park
4520 E. 23rd St.,
Long Beach
1:30PM – 3:00PM

December 20

Bixby Park
130 Cherry Ave.,
Long Beach
10:00AM – 11:30AM

Marine Stadium
5255 Paoli Way,
Long Beach,
1:30PM – 3:00PM

Pet owners must be 18 years or older. All pets must be on leashes or in carriers. Only healthy and non-pregnant animals will be vaccinated. If you have a prior rabies vaccine certificate, license tag or license renewal notice for your pet, please bring it with you to the clinic. Vaccination and microchip services are provided for pets residing in any city. Licensing service is provided for residents within our jurisdiction: Long Beach, Signal Hill, Cerritos, Los Alamitos and Seal Beach. For more service information and pricing please visit Southern California Veterinary Vaccine Clinics.

West Coast Animal Rescue and Long Beach Animal Rescue 12 Days Adopt-a-thon, December 6 – 17, Seaport Marina Hotel next to Pat and Kyrie’s Christmas Trees on the PCH (front) side of the hotel, 6400 E. PCH., Long Beach, 11:00AM – 8:00PM

Join West Coast Animal Rescue for their 12 Days Adopt-a-thon at their new location this year! Long Beach Animal Rescue will be joining with some adoptable shelter dogs and cats, too! Help these organizations find great homes for these worthy critters in time for the holidays—it’s the pets who will be getting the gift!

A Christmas Carol Friends of Long Beach Animals (FOLBA) Fund-Raiser, Sunday, Dec. 14, Long Beach Playhouse,5201 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach, 6:30PM reception, 7:30PM Performance. $25 adults, $15 for children

Enjoy a performance of a beloved Christmas tale and bless the animals one and all at the same time! The reception will include appetizers, a silent auction and a raffle, and Ralph Brunson will entertain guests with his piano classics as they graze and gaze. All FOLBA members will receive a free drink at the bar for additional holiday cheer. Visit here for information and ticket locations.

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Kate Karp is the Pets Columnist for the Long Beach Post covering the world of animal activism, pet adoptions and lots of cute cats. She’s called Long Beach home since 1994 and has written for the Post for about 10 years. Kate’s day job is as a copyeditor, which she discovered a love for during her 30-year tenure as a teacher. She describes the job as “like taking the rough edges off a beautiful sculpture.”
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