Pair trying to save feral cat colony

May 07, 2000|By ANDREA ROWLAND

Becky Stanley tried not to snag her nylons as she hiked through weeds and debris in a vacant lot across the railroad tracks from Statton Furniture Manufacturing Co. in Hagerstown.

The marketing executive was looking for cats.

She left behind her a trail of canned cat food leading to a pickup truck, where Stanley's husband, George, waited with a metal cage.

"I get the dirty work," he said.

The Williamsport couple has made it their mission to trap, seek medical attention and find homes for the 50 or so feral cats in the long-established colony near the furniture factory.

A nationally known "no kill" animal rescue service this month offered to pay to have all the cats spayed or neutered and vaccinated if the Stanleys, who volunteer with Kit Cat & Critter animal rescue service in Boonsboro, can find suitable homes for the strays.


Becky Stanley has placed nine cats on area farms, but that's "a drop in the bucket" to the number of felines who need to be adopted before Utah-based Best Friends animal rescue releases the funds for medical expenses, she said.

It will cost about $50 to provide medical attention for each stray, she added.

The Stanleys and Kit Cat Director Ruth Rowe have even cared for some of the cats at their own homes while looking for adoptive families, they said.

"We're desperate for foster people, anyone else who would be willing to do that," Becky Stanley said.

"We've got a big soft spot for (the cats)," George Stanley said. "They've had it rough enough."

Statton Furniture employees tired of tracking through cat droppings in the factory's parking lot boarded holes which led to shelter underneath the building, said General Manager Bill Whittington.

The Stanleys in February built shelters with plywood and foam insulation to help protect the cats from the cold, wet weather, and made new feeding stations from cardboard and plastic, they said.

The stations and shelters were somehow destroyed within days of being placed at the site, Becky Stanley said.

"It was a real letdown," her husband added.

The Stanleys have sent more than 30 donation request letters to Hagerstown businesses but have gotten no response, they said.

Whittington said the couple has done a "good job" at helping to clear out the cats, but the furniture company is not willing to donate funds to help with the project.

"The company isn't getting involved in it because they're in the furniture business, not the cat business," Whittington said.

Ag Center owner Ralph Henderson, who holds the deed to the cat-occupied vacant lot, couldn't be reached for comment.

The cat colony has existed for at least 17 years. That's when Hagerstown resident Marlene Lawson said she began feeding and making shelters for the strays.

"There were so many of them," said Lawson, who stopped feeding the cats after she broke her kneecap in October. "When I drove up there at night, it looked like a sea of eyes."

After her accident, Lawson called Rowe, who in turn told Becky Stanley about the colony.

"The first day Becky found out about the cats, she went over there to check it out," Rowe said. "She and George are dedicated volunteers."

When they first drove to the site, the Stanleys said at least 40 cats came out of the trees and surrounded their vehicle.

One female cat and her offspring can produce about 420,000 kittens over seven years, according to the Humane Society of the United States.

"This kind of situation would never happen if everyone would spay and neuter their cats and maybe help one more," Becky Stanley said.

Young strays can be tamed, and older feral cats make great outdoor pets and mouse hunters if provided with proper shelter and nutrition, she said.

Anyone wishing to adopt a cat, make a donation or volunteer services to the project can call Kit Cat & Critter rescue service at 301-416-2323.

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