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Free-roaming cats make themselves at home along Central Coast

Free-roaming cats make themselves at home along Central Coast

PORT HUENEME, Calif. – Up and down the coast there are furry felines making themselves at home outdoors.

They've been spotted near nurseries in Carpinteria, creekbeds in Atascadero and the Point Hueneme Lighthouse in Port Hueneme.

Their coats are Tabbies, Tuxedos, Calicos, Bengals and many more.

ASAP Cats Shelter Supervisor Becky Morrill said there is,"Definitely a feral problem throughout the Central Coast, especially because of the temperate weather and global warming the breeding season has become year-round."

Rather than call them feral, shelters prefer calling them "unsocialized" or "community cats."

Some have turned the recently paved path near the deep sea Port of Hueneme into a catwalk.

Port Hueneme Public Works Director Don Villafana said, "Everyone that walks down here sees the cats and knows they are there."

The rocks are like cat condos between the beach and port.

But, while workers dredge the Channel Islands Harbor and send sand down coast the gates to the path are locked.

Work crews slow down on the road for the cats.

Phil Shaheen of Manson Construction said he is amazed all the cats seem to get along.

The city of Port Hueneme posted a sign near the beach asking people not to feed the cats, but the sign is not necessarily enforced.

"We don't want people to abandon their cats here, that is really what we don't want," said Villafana.

Port Hueneme used to have a block cat named Shady. There was even a painted portrait of Shady inside Port Hueneme City Hall.

"She was the city cat and city hall for years and years and years, "said Villafana, "I think everyone has a soft spot for cats."

The port seems to have a soft spot, too and a few people have managed to care for the cats including one woman nicknamed "The Cat Lady."

Her real name is Jo Anne Montenaro.

"The most important thing is their job and that is to take care of the mice and rats that come off boats," said Montenaro, "Because I've been doing this so long, it is a lot easier to call me 'The Cat Lady' than my name"

She is also known for trying to find home for litters of kittens.

"This year we did over a dozen that we were able to farm out and get adopted," said Montenaro.

But domesticating the cats isn't easy.

Some shelters use Gerber baby food to train them.

Spay and neuter and release efforts need funding and volunteers.

Morrill said it's important to spay and neuter as many as possible.

"We have hundreds of cute little critters, like Marie, she is absolutely adorable, but we don't need hundreds of her.”

Montenaro agrees.

"The most important thing is to take them to get them fixed, take them to any shelter, sometimes they will take them and adopt them, but otherwise you bring them back and where you found them," said Montenaro.

Adopting rescues helps combat cat over-population.

For more information visit http://wwwasapcats.org

Article Topic Follows: Animals
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Tracy Lehr

Tracy Lehr is a reporter and the weekend anchor for News Channel 3-12. To learn more about Tracy, click here

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