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Caring for community's abandoned cats

Most experts see practice of spaying then returning feral cats as a positive way to reduce population.

February 13, 2013|By Alicia Lopez
  • Lynn Chadwick, a volunteer with Second Chance Pet Adoptions, puts food out for cats at several locations in Huntington Beach.
Lynn Chadwick, a volunteer with Second Chance Pet Adoptions,… (SCOTT SMELTZER )

They are feral — wild and possibly dangerous. But they are also scared, hungry and in danger.

They get a little help from people who spend hours feeding the stray cats around the city and even trap many in a practice called catch, neuter and return. Just like it sounds, the cats are lured into a trap, taken to a vet to be altered and then returned to where they were found.

The method may seem counterintuitive to some, but there is a strategy to their stakeouts. The goal is actually to reduce the number of feral cats and the practice is promoted by the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and Orange County Animal Care.

Lynn Chadwick puts the concept into action in her area of Huntington Beach. She has been feeding and trapping cats for more than a decade and has worked it so that other people feed them on a regular basis. Still, she checks in on them at least a few times a week.

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"I don't really enjoy it but it feels good to do it for the cats," she said. "If I didn't have to do it, I wouldn't."

On a recent weeknight she does her rounds in the area of Beach Boulevard and Utica Avenue. She stops behind several businesses and a couple of group homes to check the status of the bowls.

There is a small alley behind a bar in which workers pass a jar to pay for the cat food. Those bowls have some food but they are running low on food in the bin. She makes a note to remind them to buy more.

Later she stops by the parking lot of a business. In the back corner is a small area where she refills the bowls — she has warned a nearby neighbor to keep her cat inside, both to prevent it from eating the food and from getting snagged by a coyote.

After that she drops by a spot that is a little more special to her. She hasn't been able to recruit any feeders here so she comes by twice a day to leave food and usually the cats come out to visit — from a distance.

The cats have been fixed — all of the cats at her regular stops have been.

"Their ears are clipped so we can tell which ones have been fixed," she said.

Huntington Beach Police Chief Ken Small said in an email that he knows of Chadwick and her work. He doesn't support feeding feral cats, but does support trapping them for the purpose of spaying or neutering them.

"That practice will help reduce the number of feral cats in our community," he said.

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