The Scratching Post is a weekly newsletter from pets columnist Kate Karp, bringing you all the latest news on pet adoptions, animal welfare and ways to get involved.

The “nine lives cat,” nearly died of pyrometria, was attacked by a coyote, and is now a loving (although slightly scruffy) cat who loves to head-butt Jennifer’s hand out of affection and then swat at her. Photo by Kate Karp.

Purebred cats in colonies have same needs as any homeless cat

Back in 1981, two cats with oddly curled ears showed up at the home of Grace and Joe Ruga in Lakewood. One cat took off a few weeks later, and the other, a little longhair black cat whom the Rugas named Shulamith, came inside to take over the house and birth a litter of kittens, all of whom had unusual ears. Intrigued, the couple contacted a geneticist, who found that the ears resulted from a dominant gene.

So began the American curl, officially recognized as a breed in 1986, taking Lakewood a step further from its distinction as the most boring city in California. Cat breeders bred and rebred the unusual felines from the seed cats, and therein hangs our tail, or rather ears.

Purebred and “purebred” dogs often end up in public shelters, and cat breeds can wind up in colonies, scrounging for meals and breeding profusely. Two years ago, history repeated itself when a little cat resembling an American curl showed up at the home of a woman in a nearby location (which shall not be named for the sake of privacy and protection). This time, though, there was no intent of breeding. The woman, Christy (first names only in this article), was caregiver of a cat colony in her neighborhood and found that the new cat wasn’t the only curly-eared kitty in the clowder. Unique breed notwithstanding, Christy wasn’t about to add to the population of homeless cats, so they were off to the vet for spay/neuter.

Meanwhile, way down the same street, cat rescuer Jennifer was walking her neighbor’s dog past a fast-food restaurant and saw a curly-eared kitten scrounging for a meal in the detritus at the drive-thru. She took the dog back to the neighbor and returned for the kitten, who led Jennifer on a merry chase to a second colony on the street. More curly-eared, hungry, unaltered cats lived there.

 “OK, looks like I’m (trapping and rescuing) a cat colony,” Jennifer remembered thinking. “None of them were fixed. I got them appointments and asked around to see if anyone’s feeding them. They weren’t.”

“Tea time” at the colony. Photo courtesy of Jennifer.

 Despite the proximity of the colonies, Christy and Jennifer were unaware of each other. Then, Christy and fellow trappers Susan and Dee nabbed a curly-eared cat they’d named Roberto. He’d been microchipped, and when they located the supposed owner, Dee called and said, “Hey, I have your cat. Where are you located?” 

The person gave her location — at the other end of the street. Of course, it was Jennifer. Roberto had been difficult to identify as a trapped cat because of the odd way their ears have to be tipped to identify them as altered colony cats. Apparently, he’d been yo-yoing between colonies and establishing several paternities. He was also the catalyst — pardon — for joining the two colony managers in one effort.

Both colonies comprise a conflation of odd cats: pointed ears, curled ears, polydactyls — another genetic anomaly that presents with extra digits on the paws — and every color and pattern on the feline spectrum. This genetic soup was more than likely cooked up by someone’s unaltered American curl taking a powder from home and nature and dominant genes taking over.

Uniqueness aside, these colonies have the same problems and dangers as any colony. People dump unaltered cats in the colonies, which affects the trappers’ abilities to keep the numbers down. Cats get hit by cars and attacked by other animals. Some disappear and die; others become incurably ill and have to be euthanized.

“Community cats have a hard life,” Dee said.

Christy has experienced such cruel acts as placing antifreeze near the feeding areas and threats and a physical attack by a neighbor, resulting in Christy involving the police and obtaining a restraining order. Still, she won’t back down from what she sees as a humanitarian need for living beings.

 “They’re relying on me,” Christy said.

 “I see Christy as a saint — she’s done so much,” Jennifer said. “But there’s only so much she can do, only so many resources. And it’s not the cats’ fault they’re here. There are 3,000,000 homeless cats in Los Angeles, and the whole country’s in a shelter crisis. TNR is the only way out of this — we don’t need any more cats.”

 Not even special curly-eared and multi-toed kitties?

 “All cats are special,” Jennifer said.

Like most TNR volunteers, money to cover food, medical care and spay/neuter procedures often comes out of their own pockets. Even with spay/neuter vouchers, this adds up. Jennifer’s colony has an Amazon wish list; Christy could use e-gift cards from Chewy or Petco — her email address is [email protected].

And on the topic of doing good, The Long Beach Post and its sibling pubs have restructured as a nonprofit, meaning that we’re there to serve our community (you!). Find out here about becoming a subscribing member or making a tax-deductible gift to support the Long Beach Journalism Initiative. Plus, a portion of the funds from the Scratching Post newsletter subscriptions will go to the venerable Friends of Long Beach Animals.

Pets to adopt or foster

Meet three veterans of Christy’s and Jennifer’s curly-eared and poly-toed colonies. Remember that underneath the unique appearances are just plain cats who need the same care that their pointy-eared counterparts do. Remember, too, that narrow ear canals go with the curly gene, so you’ll have to keep an eye on the ears. Here are some tips for ear care.

Kylia is nearly a year old, and she’s a shy little teenager. But once she’s settled into a home, there’s no stopping the zoomies. She loves to play with other cats, and gets along with little dogs, too. Kylia has sort of hit the genetic jackpot — not only does she have the curly ears, but she’s also a polydactyl, meaning that she has extra toes that look like thumbs. She’d love to go home with brother Rowen.

And here’s Rowen! Also a year old, he climbs on cat shelves, checks out the window to watch the birdies, and keeps an eye on his foster mom. He plays tag incessantly, and likes little dogs.

Kylia and Rowen are under the auspices of The Little Lion Foundation. Apply here for an adoption application. Meet them at Little Lion’s adoption event this weekend, Jan. 20 and 21, 1 to 4 p.m. at Pet Food Express, 4220 Long Beach Blvd, Long Beach.

Remi is the resourceful little hero that led Jessica to her colony from the drive-thru at the fast-food place. She’s adjusting just fine to living indoors with humans — not an easy transition for a former colony kitty. She’ll need to go to a forever home with another cat friend with a patient, understanding human. No dogs, though, or kids. Remi’s ears are pointy but she has the polydactyl thing going on in her gene structure.

Remi is in foster care through Kitty Rescue in Los Angeles, under her full name, Remington. Access this link to adopt Remi.